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Originally published March 26 2009

Psychiatry Still Uses Electroshock Therapy on Children

by David Gutierrez, staff writer

(NaturalNews) A recent article published in the Melbourne, Australia paper Herald Sun has drawn attention to the ongoing psychiatric practice of using electroshock therapy on children as young as four years of age.

Electroshock therapy, also known as electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), is the practice of applying electric shocks to the brain in order to induce seizures and modify behavior by damaging "problematic" portions of the brain.

"After a few sessions of ECT, the symptoms are those of moderate cerebral contusions," said neurologist Sidney Sament. "The patient 'forgets' his symptoms because the brain damage destroys memory traces in the brain, and the patient has to pay for this by a reduction in mental capacity of varying degree."

In the United States, most states allow the use of ECT on young children. Although the procedure is less commonly used for children than for adults, critics argue that it is still used far too freely, considering the potential for lasting brain damage.

"You might think that before any child receives a series of 70 to 170 volts of brain zappings and is thrown into seizures, every other non-traumatic therapy would have been attempted," said clinical psychologist Bruce Levine. "You might think that before using ECT, in addition to trying every type of psychotherapy, there would also be an exhaustive effort to find a therapist with whom a kid might genuinely connect. You might think all this, but you would be wrong."

According to Levine, psychiatrists regularly resort to ECT after only a handful of attempts have been made to modify a child's behavior with drugs.

A study published in early 2007 concluded that persistent cognitive symptoms such as amnesia and slowed mental processing regularly persist in ECT patients six months after the procedure. Yet critics charge that the benefits of the therapy have not been proven -- a 1985 conference on the procedure was unable to produce any evidence of benefit beyond four weeks, and a 1999 study concluded that ECT failed to result in a reduction of suicide rates.

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