Protesters at the American College of Psychiatrists Convention in New Orleans Demand an End to Electroshock

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Some 100,000 Americans are subjected to electroshock treatment each year, according to the Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR), despite international reports condemning forced electroshock treatment as torture

Protesters demonstrated outside the American College of Psychiatrists Convention at the Marriott New Orleans last week, demanding psychiatrists immediately cease using ECT (electroconvulsive treatment). Some 100,000 Americans are subjected to ECT every year, making its use a multibillion-dollar industry. Citizens Commission on Human Rights organized the demonstration. CCHR, a mental health watchdog founded in 1969 by the Church of Scientology and professor of psychiatry Dr. Thomas Szasz, says ECT sends 460 volts of electricity through the brain causing a grand mal seizure. Yet American psychiatric
facilities, including those in the host city of New Orleans, continue to use it.

CCHR international spokesperson Rev. Fred Shaw, president of the NAACP Inglewood-South Bay, California, Chapter and cofounder of the Task Force against Racism and Modern Day Eugenics, led the protest. Shaw asserted that electroshock treatment “should be universally banned. It is astounding that American psychiatrists still endorse electroshock, including to children, pregnant women and the frail elderly.”

rev fred shaw
Rev. Fred Shaw led a Citizens Commission on Human Rights protest last week at the American College of Psychiatrists Convention in New Orleans
 

CCHR called on the American College of Psychiatrists to put members on notice that the administration of electroshock and all coercive psychiatric practices must stop and that psychiatric associations have the duty to include patient protection and rights in the continuing medical education of its members.

In October 2023, the World Health Organization issued guidance stating: “Coercive practices in mental health care violate the right to be protected from torture
or cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment.” The WHO pointed out that “ECT without consent violates
the right to physical and mental integrity and may constitute torture and ill-treatment.” It also clarifies that informed consent requires that those “offered ECT should also be made aware of all its risks and potential short- and long-term harmful effects,
such as memory loss and brain damage.” 

The guidance cited a 2018 Los Angeles lawsuit that led to ECT device manufacturer Somatics Inc. adding a warning to its instruction manual that “patients may experience…permanent brain damage.”

One of the law firms that successfully litigated the case reported: “ECT can cause brain damage, permanent memory loss and neurocognitive injury,” that there are no long-term studies that show ECT is safe or effective, and that the procedure delivers “a significant amount of electricity to the human brain, resulting in damage.”

Guidance from the World Health Organization and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights issued in 2023 states, “In no situation shall mental health internment, hospitalization or treatment be carried out against the will of the person.”

The United Nations Convention against Torture condemns ECT. Because the U.S. is a signatory to the convention, these injunctions are applicable in domestic law. Despite this, many U.S. states allow for involuntary ECT. What’s more, a July 2018 UN Human Rights Council report indicated that forced ECT constitutes “torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment….”

CCHR has long fought to protect the rights of individuals to refuse ECT and was instrumental in obtaining legislation in several states of Australia that bans an ECT procedure combined with deep sedation. Called “Deep Sleep,” it was so dangerous for people of all ages that criminal penalties were added to laws preventing its administration. In 2023, members of the UK Parliament called for a complete ban on the practice.

Rev. Fred Shaw, who led the protest, is the subject in an episode of the Scientology Network original series Voices for Humanity that features changemakers of a variety of faiths, cultures and nations as they work to make a difference by helping communities in partnership with Scientology-sponsored humanitarian programs. Born into a family of civic-minded freedom fighters in South Los Angeles, Rev. Shaw often heard it said, “If you don’t stand up, who will?” A former deputy sheriff, he has a passion for protecting civil and human rights.

The CCHR documentary Therapy or Torture: The Truth About Electroshock exposes the serious risks of ECT. The film is available in 17 languages on the Scientology Network.

For more information, visit the CCHR website, or watch a series of CCHR documentaries on the Scientology Network that expose the truth about ECT, the marketing of dangerous psychotropic drugs and the psychiatric industry’s dark and terrifying history.



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Alexandra Williams
Alexandra Williams
Alexandra Williams is a writer and editor. Angeles. She writes about politics, art, and culture for LinkDaddy News.

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