Lauren Tenney 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 her remarks as published in the public record of the meeting.
Hi, thanks. My name is Lauren Tenney. I’m a survivor of psychiatry. I was never given electroshock, but it’s much because of the work of advocates and activists in the 1960s and 1970s and 1980s that prevented me from being exposed to the treatment which is known to cause brain damage, including memory loss, damage to the body, and destruction of life.
I consider myself very lucky. At 15 I was institutionalized at a state facility in New York, and in recent meetings, as recent as the end of last year, the New York State Office of Mental Health justifies the young person that can be shocked in a situation that is identical to what would have been seen as my situation at 15. And so I feel, on top of everything else, the idea of young people being shocked is a human rights violation and needs to be looked at, and as a matter of fact, the United Nations Special Repertoire on the Convention Against Torture has cited that electroshock along with several other psychiatries, several other practices such as forced drugging, may constitute torture or ill treatment.
Theopalproject.org collected over 80 comments and sent them onto the FDA when you were doing the initial commenting January 4th and 5th, I’m not sure of the date, but when you were doing it. We sent out over 80 comments and, you know, many of the people who are currently being shocked may have no idea that there is an opportunity to comment on the potential down-classification of the shock machine without a safety investigation.
Many of these people, including children and senior citizens, may be involuntarily committed, barred access to the outside world and the Internet, leaving options for their voice to be heard discounted. Various reasons such as poverty, illiteracy, fear of retaliation, lack of access to the Internet, fear of coming out, and saddest for those whose death was caused by ECT, which itself is a crime against humanity, will prevent some people’s voices from being heard.
So while in numbers we may not be able to rise against the strength of the industries that will undoubtedly prosper from a down- classification of the shock machine, please bear in mind what it means for someone to speak up and voice their opinion and share their personal experiences.
This is the reason that we sent this letter out to you. I think you all should have gotten this.
I’m appealing to your humanity here and I’m asking you to seriously consider what it is that people say. In 74 of the comments, about 12 or 13 people used the word “please.” Please stop the use of ECT. Please do not cave into the industry on this issue. Please do not reclassify unless you undertake investigation. Please don’t destroy any more brilliant minds like this. Please consider carefully the approval process and reclassification of ECT. Please do not reclassify the ECT device to Class II without further requiring premarket approval applications. Please stop this process until you have had ample time to hear from those of us who have had firsthand experience with ECT. Do not allow these companies to get away with this please. Please be sure to do safety exploration and testing before moving forward. Please stop them now. Please do not allow ECT machines to be used as safe without proper investigation. It seems to me that even if one was destroyed, that is one too many. Please stop this treatment.
You know, for centuries, we have been going through periods of time when psychiatric industry comes under investigation because of the way it acts, and we have this opportunity right now again to try to make some change and to try to make it stick.
The door has been open on a very important conversation that is silently brewed amongst people who are survivors of shock treatment and their allies for decades with little effect. Our battle is now, as it always has been, Will the people who have power to end psychiatric abuse and torture and require full and informed consent based on actual safety investigations do so?
Hundreds of attempts of thousands of people over the decades have left many of us unhopeful that —
DR. BROTT: You have 30 seconds left.
MS. TENNEY: Well, shock is a social justice issue. FDA, we want you to ban the use of all shock devices on minors, ban the use of shock devices for all forced, coerced, and uninformed shock procedures which routinely happen across this country, and institute a moratorium on all use of shock devices until proven safe. Thank you.