Dr. John Breeding presented to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Neurological Devices Panel examining the reclassification of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) devices on January 27, 2011. These are his remarks as published in the public record of the meeting.
My name is John Breeding. I’ve been a Texas psychologist for almost 30 years, and I’m a founding member of the Coalition for the Abolition of Electroshock in Texas. I’ve been active for 20 years in efforts to abolish or at least limit the use of electroshock because of its severe danger and lack of efficacy. Although we narrowly failed to accomplish a total ban on electroshock in Texas, the procedure is banned for children under age 16 and extra safeguards are in place for the elderly. In Texas at least, we know that electroshock is dangerous, and electroshock machines are very dangerous. So, of course, I’m strongly against the reclassification of the machines.
Two very experienced neurologists submitted written testimony but could not be here today. Dr. John Friedberg is the author of Shock Treatment is Not Good for Your Brain. Here’s what he said. “The intentional induction of convulsions should be abolished. In my entire career, I never met an epileptic who benefited from their seizures. I never had a patient tell me a seizure leaves them feeling happier. ECT causes memory loss in all cases, dramatic damage in some.”
I completely agree with Dr. Friedberg. I’ve seen the research showing brain damage and memory loss, and I’ve sat with the victims of electroshock. I’ve witnessed their profound losses and disabilities. I personally know at least three people who have permanent seizure disorders now as a result of electroshock, including Diana Loper (ph.) who is one of the women I left in Charlotte. I know many more who are unable to work and on permanent disability. The other woman I left there, Evelyn Scogin, is unable to work as a teacher because of her disabilities.
As a psychologist, I appreciate also what Dr. Fred Baughman had to say. “Throughout the more than three decades of my neurological practice, I have encountered patients treated with ECT who had permanent erasures of their memory. Psychiatrists may wish to call ECT therapeutic, but it never achieves anything but to diminish adaptability in the broadest sense and cannot be called therapeutic or medically justifiable.”
That my own mental health profession systematically inflicts brain damage is a shame and a disgrace, that women like Evelyn Scogin and Diana Loper strove to get here today is an incredible testament to their resilient spirit.
Anyone who is serious about evaluating electroshock needs to read this book, Doctors of Deception, What They Don’t Want You To Know about Shock Treatment, by researcher and electroshock survivor, Linda Andre. It’s the best up-to-date document on shock and makes it clear that the reason we’re even having this conversation today is a victory of public relations over science.
The science is clear about the basic questions of risk and benefit. Electroshock is not safe. It is extremely dangerous. It always causes brain damage. The most obvious evidence of this is memory loss. It sometimes causes death. While the American Psychiatric Association argues that electroshock deaths are rare, one study published in 1993 reported 10 deaths among 37 patients 80 and older who underwent electroshock. In the mid 1990s, the Texas Department of Mental Health and Retardation reported 21 deaths among an estimated 2,000 patients who were electroshocked. In Texas, we’re clear that these machines are dangerous.
The electroshock machine industry has consistently ignored FDA requirements for evidence on the safety and efficacy of their machines. I suppose it is a political question as to why your agency has consistently refused to apply the law and hold the industry accountable. For now, I urge you to do the right thing and leave these brain-damaging machines in the high risk category. Thank you.