Addendum (May 18, 2001): The hearings have now been completed. To offer written present testimony, contact: Assembly Program and Counsel, (518) 455-4371 (Room 522 Capitol, Albany, NY 12248) or the office of Assemblyman Luster (518) 455-5444 or (607) 277-8030.


April 26, 2001

Marty Luster
(518) 455-5444
(607) 277-8030


    Assemblyman Martin A. Luster (D-125th), Chair of the NYS Assembly Mental Health Committee, has announced a statewide Assembly hearing on electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) scheduled for Friday, May 18, 2001 at 10:00 a.m. in New York City. ECT, also known as electroshock, is a procedure that applies an electrical stimulus to the brain, resulting in a seizure similar to an epileptic seizure.  While this therapy has been long recognized in the field of mental health as a viable treatment for certain mental illnesses, its use continues to remain controversial.

     According to Luster, "Historically, ECT has been utilized as a treatment of last resort.  However, its use appears to be on the rise in New York State.  Accordingly, the Assembly intends to thoroughly review the efficacy of this treatment, the frequency of its use statewide and the effectiveness of existing legal safeguards designed to protect patients' rights."

     In a letter dated March 12, 2001 to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, State Office of Mental Health Commissioner James Stone stated, "The efficacy of ECT has been well documented by national and international psychiatric and medical organizations.  It is a treatment which is judiciously used in New York State, in a manner consistent with contemporary standards of clinical practice and employing the legal safeguards of informed consent."  However, Luster notes that the New York State Mental Hygiene Legal Services has indicated that applications for court-ordered, forced ECT has increased by over 73% since 1999.  This information, coupled with an ongoing court battle waged by a patient at Pilgrim Psychiatric Center fighting the use of forced
ECT, have, according to Luster, highlighted this issue.

     "It is our hope that by providing an objective public forum to comprehensively address issues associated with electroshock therapy, the legislature and the public will become better informed as to the current state of the use of ECT, its appropriateness with regard to a variety of mental illnesses, its risks, benefits and side effects, both short-and long-term ," said Luster.  "Such evaluation will also enable the Assembly to ensure that appropriate legal safeguards are in place to sufficiently protect patients who receive such treatment," concluded Luster (italics by NYAPRS).

     To inquire into presenting written present testimony, contact: Assembly Program and Counsel, Room 522 Capitol, Albany, NY 12248. The phone is:  (518) 455- 4371.



SUBJECT:    Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT)

PURPOSE:    To determine the impact on patient care


     May 18, 2001
     10:00 AM
     Assembly Hearing Room
        250 Broadway
      Room 1923 - 19th Floor
       New York, New York

Electrconvulsive Therapy (ECT), also known as shock treatment, has been a recognized, yet controversial treatment for certain types of mental illness. There are differing opinions as to the appropriateness of ECT and, historically, ECT has been used as a treatment of last resort.

While, New York State does not now require reporting of the use of ECT within the state, it appears that the use of this treatment option is increasing. Patient advocates are concerned that the legal safeguards for informed consent need to be strengthened.   The issue of legal safeguards is a particular concern in the case of involuntary, or forced, application of ECT

Recent events regarding patients at the Pilgrim Psychiatric Center have highlighted this issue.  According to the New York State Mental Hygiene Legal Services, applications for court ordered ECT increased 73% between 1999 and 2000.

Please see the reverse side for a list of subjects to which witnesses may direct their testimony, and for a description of the bills which will be discussed at the hearing.

Persons wishing to present pertinent testimony to the Committee at the above hearing should complete and return the enclosed reply form as soon as possible.  It is important that the reply form be fully completed and returned so that persons may be notified in the event of emergency postponement or cancellation.

Oral testimony will be limited to 10 minutes' duration.  In preparing the order of witnesses, the Committee will attempt to accommodate individual requests to speak at particular times in view of special circumstances. These requests should be made on the attached reply form or communicated to Committee staff as early as possible.  In the absence of a request, witnesses will be scheduled in the order in which reply forms are postmarked.

Ten copies of any prepared testimony should be submitted at the hearing registration desk.  The Committee would appreciate advance receipt of prepared statements.

In order to further publicize these hearings, please inform interested parties and organizations of the Committee's interest in hearing testimony from all sources.

In order to meet the needs of those who may have a disability, the Assembly, in accordance with its policy of non-discrimination on the basis of disability, as well as the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), has made its facilities and services available to all individuals with disabilities.  For individuals with disabilities, accommodations will be provided, upon reasonable request, to afford such individuals access and admission to Assembly facilities and activities.

     Member of Assembly
     Committee on Mental Health, Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities


1.  What is the efficacy of the use of ECT to treat mental illness?

2.  What are the adverse effects of the use of ECT?

3.  What legal safeguards need to be implemented regarding informed consent and court ordered ECT?

4.  What is the incidence of use of ECT in New York State?

5.  What alternative treatment modalities are available?


Persons wishing to present testimony at the public hearing on Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) are requested to complete this reply form as soon as possible and mail it to:

     Carl Letson
     Legislative Associate
     Assembly Committee on Mental Health, Mental Retardation and
     Developmental Disabilities
     Room 522 - Capitol
     Albany, New York  12248
     (518) 455-4371
     (518) 455-4693 (fax)

----    I plan to attend the following public hearing on Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) to be conducted by the Assembly Committee on Mental Health, Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities on May 18, 2001.

----    I plan to make a public statement at the hearing.  My statement will be limited to 10 minutes, and I will answer any questions which may arise.   I will provide 10 copies of my prepared statement.

----    I will address my remarks to the following subjects:

     _____    _____________________________________

     _____    _____________________________________

     _____    _____________________________________

----    I do not plan to attend the above hearing.

----    I would like to be added to the Committee mailing list for notices and reports.

----    I would like to be removed from the Committee mailing list.

----    I will require assistance and/or handicapped accessibility information.  Please specify the type of assistance required:



NAME: ______________________________________________________

TITLE:  ____________________________________________________

ORGANIZATION: ______________________________________________

ADDRESS: ___________________________________________________

TELEPHONE: _________________________________________________

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