October 8, 1999
Susan Blumenthal, M.D.
U.S. Assistant Surgeon General and Science Advisor
Parklawn Building 18-16
Rockville, MD 20857
Dear Dr. Blumenthal:
I am writing on behalf of the National Association of Rights Protection and Advocacy (NARPA) to express our strong objection to the reported Federal endorsement of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). Since its inception in 1981 NARPA's unique membership coalition of consumers/survivors/ex-patients, lawyers, and mental health professionals continues to be: dedicated to promoting those policies and pursuing those strategies that represent the preferred options of people who have been labeled mentally disabled. NARPA receives no government funding or monies from drug companies or professional associations.
The history of psychiatry is littered with poorly researched harmful treatments in which credibility was attained and promoted by professional expert testimony rather than empirical evidence. Will ECT be listed next after lobotomy and insulin comas among the treatments once hailed as miracle cures and later regarded with abhorrence? ECT, more commonly known as "electroshock treatment," is an intervention that frequently is administered without fully informed consent and where cost/benefit ratios are assessed by people other then the perspective patient. Persuasive arguments often involve incomplete information and can range from subtle coercion to force.
No other modern-day treatment generates as much anger among those who have experienced it and reported its negative effects. Yet, despite numerous complaints, and with little research to substantiate ECT's efficacy, the effectiveness of this procedure has been spuriously validated by the testimony of experts who have a vested interest in the administration of ECT.
The National Association of Rights Protection and Advocacy strongly advises the Surgeon General to reconsider a position on ECT that could be used to justify the use and expansion of this extremely controversial treatment. The large number of people who are eager and willing to come forth and report the damaging effects of their personal experience with ECT makes it quite clear that there needs to be a more comprehensive investigation.
Ronald Bassman, Ph.D. Vice President