Food and Drug Administration

Dockets Management Branch (HFA-305

5630 Fishers  Lane, Room 1061

Rockville, MD  20852

Docket Number FDA-2009-N-0392


CAPA Statement re Shock Machines

The Coalition Against Psychiatric Assault (CAPA) strongly opposes the FDA’s intention to reclassify shock (“ECT”) machines from Class-III  (high-risk) to Class-II (low-risk). CAPA is a grassroots, political action organization of electroshock survivors, psychiatric survivors, health professionals, academics, social justice and antipsychiatry activists; it plans and organizes strategic actions against electroshock and psychiatric drugs – its two priorities. We wish to point out that several CAPA members have undergone electroshock and suffered permanent memory loss and brain damage from this allegedly “safe and effective treatment”. Since its founding over five years ago, CAPA has spoken out against electroshock, organized educational events such as public forums, free public lectures, and nonviolent public protests. CAPA has repeatedly and publicly called for an immediate ban.

CAPA’s continuing resistance to electroshock is based on several scientific facts and the personal testimony of many shock survivors:

Shock machines deliver up to 400 volts of electricity (Cameron, 1994)

It has been established to a point of statistical significance that all forms of ‘ECT’ cause brain damage.

The FDA has never tested shock machines for medical safety and therapeutic effectiveness. (Andre, 2009)

During the shock treatment, electrodes are placed above the temporal lobes, the site of memory function in the brain

Every shock treatment causes a grand-mal epileptic seizure. convulsion and coma (Breggin, 1997,1998)

Shock treatments cause many devastating effects - particularly brain damage, permanent memory loss, problems in concentration and learning, loss of creativity, and sometimes death. It has destroyed the careers and lives of many (Friedberg, 1977; Breggin, 1998, 2008; Frank, 1990, 2006; Sterling, 2002; Funk, 1998; Report of the Panel, 2005)

Thirty years ago in a report on medical devices, the FDA officially listed 8  “risks to health” including brain damage and memory loss (Federal Register,1979; Andre, 2009)

Women and the elderly are very vulnerable and suffer the most severe memory loss and brain damage (Sackeim, 2007); elderly women are the most vulnerable (Burstow, 2006; Weitz, 1997)

2 to 3 times more women than men are electroshocked; women experience electroshock as a form of violence against women (Burstow, 2006a, 2006b)

 Shock treatments shorten the life of elderly patients (Black et al, 1989; Breggin, 1997, 2008; Kroessler & Fogel, 1993; Weitz, 1997)

Since psychiatrists and other physicians frequently violate the patient’s right to informed consent, shock treatments are generally coercive (Breeding, 2000; Report of the Panel, 2005)

Electroshock triggers terror and trauma in most patients. (Breggin, 1998; Report of the Panel, 2005)

Given these facts, we conclude that shock machines pose unacceptably high risks to the health and lives of hundreds of  thousands of people. We urge the FDA not to be pressured by the American Psychiatric Association, which is currently lobbying to reclassify them in Class-II. Until they are banned, all shock machines should remain in Class-III. We also recommend that the FDA start testing shock machines for their medical safety; we are confident they will be proved medically unsafe. As engines of destruction, shock machines have no place in the health care system of the United States and all other countries. They should have been banned long ago.

Dr. Bonnie Burstow, Chair

Dianne Moore

Don Weitz

Executive Committee, Coalition Against Psychiatric Assault (CAPA)


Andre, L. (2009). Doctors of Deception: What They Don’t Want You To Know About Shock Treatment. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.

Black, D.W., Winokur, G., Mohandoss, E., Woolson, R.F. and Nasrallah, A. (1989) "Does treatment influence mortality in depressives? A follow-up of 1076 patients with major affective disorders.” Annals of Clinical Psychiatry, 1(3), 165-173.

Breeding, J. (2000). “Electroshock and Informed Consent.”

Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 40, 65-79.


Breggin, P. (1997). Brain-Disabling Treatments in Psychiatry. New York: Springer Publishing Company. Ch.8 “Electroshock for Depression”, 129-156.; 2nd  edition, 2008.


Breggin, P. (1998). Electroshock: Scientific, Ethical, and Political Issues. International  Journal of Risk and Safety in Medicine (11), 5-40.


Burstow, B. (2006a) “Electroshock As a Form of Violence Against Women”, Violence Against Women, vol.12 no.4. 372-392.


Burstow, B. (2006b). “Understanding and Ending ECT: A Feminist Imperative”. Canadian Woman Studies, vol. 25, numbers 1,2, 115-122.


Cameron, D.G. (1994).  “ECT: Sham Statistics, the Myth of Convulsive Therapy, and the Case for Consumer Misinformation”, The Journal of Mind and Behavior, vol.15, numbers 1 and 2, 177-198

Federal Register (November 28, 1979). “Classification of Electroconvulsive Therapy Devices”. Vol.43, No.220, 55729.


Frank, L. (1990). “Electroshock: death, brain damage, memory loss, and brainwashing”. Journal of Mind and Behavior, 11, 489-512.


Frank, L. (2006). The Electroshock Quotationary [online]


Friedberg, J. (1977).  Shock treatment, brain damage, and memory loss: a neurological perspective. American Journal of Psychiatry 134: 1010-1014.

Funk, W. (1998). “What DiffErenCe Does IT Make?”: Journey of a Soul Survivor. Cranbrook, B.C.: Wildflower Publishing Company [self-published].

Kroessler, D. and Fogel, B.S. (1993) "Electroconvulsive therapy for major depression in the oldest old". The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 1(1), 30-37.

Sackeim, H.A et al (2007). “The Cognitive Effects of Electroconvulsive Therapy in Community Settings.” Neuropsychopharmacology, 32, 244-54.

Sterling, P. (October 2002). Comments on Brain Damage and Memory Loss From Electroconvulsive Shock. Dublin, Ireland: Wellbeing Foundation.

Weitz, D. (1997).  “Electroshocking Elderly People: Another Psychiatric Abuse”.

Changes: International Journal of Psychology and Psychotherapy, vol.15 no.2

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 ECT without consent

Madam, – I have been following the recent correspondence on electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) with more than a degree of personal interest.

Diagnosed with schizophrenia, my mother was for many years confined in a British residential institution, during which she was subjected to several sessions of ECT. Despite misgivings, my father was persuaded by her medical consultants to sanction the treatment on her behalf. She never forgave him for this, and I am not sure that he ever forgave himself either. Being forced to endure this humiliating and obviously terrifying treatment, wholly against her will, significantly exacerbated the paranoia to which she was already prone. More than 40 years later, I remain convinced that, in the end, it was a significant factor in her decision to take her own life. – Yours, etc,


College View,


Co Cork.

Madam, – We very much appreciate all the recent letters of support on the subject of forced ECT. In addition, we would like to point out that there are other no less deserving survivors who, even in the face of the stigma referred to by Dr Siobhan Barry (December 14th), have spoken against the practice at public protests which have taken place in Cork for the last three years.

As regards Dr Barry’s claim that forced ECT is ethically well- founded, similar claims were made by psychiatry as recently as the mid 20th century in relation to insulin-coma therapy and pre-frontal lobotomy.

Forced ECT is a perfect metaphor for the domination/control model of bio-psychiatry yet incredibly, Dr Barry claims it to be “a human right” when in reality it is the opposite, to be ranked alongside other violations such as forced drugging and compulsory treatment orders.

In a democratic society people have the right to choose. Why are people with psycho/social problems treated differently? –


MindFreedom Ireland,