The Utmost Discretion: How Presumed Prudence Leaves Children Susceptible to Electroshock. Children & Society, 28, (2014) pp. 231-241
Cheryl van Daalen-Smith, Simon Adam, Peter Breggin and Brenda A. LeFrançois
This article examines the controversial and largely publicly undocumented practice of administering electroconvulsive therapy (ECT or electroshock) to children who are undergoing psychiatric treatment. Conventional psychiatric beliefs and practices are challenged, along with a presentation of the history of scientific research which questions electroshock's 'effectiveness' and outlines its brain-damaging and incapacitating effects. As such, we provide counterarguments regarding the legitimacy of ECT as a treatment option, deconstructing the principle of presumed prudence in its use. Our analysis leads us to conclude that the 'principle of presumed prudence' should be eschewed in favour of the 'precautionary principle', in order to underscore and uphold the medical ethos 'to do no harm' and to ensure the application of children's rights within the psychiatric system. © 2014 John Wiley & Sons Ltd and National Children's Bureau.
Peter R. Breggin, MD
Based on the author's extensive clinical, forensic and research experience, this article addresses the scientific and moral question of whether it is ever in the best interests of a child to be given a psychiatric drug. The focus is on the diagnosis Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and stimulant drugs, and on the diagnosis Bipolar Disorder and antipsychotic (neuroleptic) drugs. The conclusion is that we should work towards a prohibition against giving psychiatric drugs to children, and instead focus on safe and effective alternative ways of meeting the needs of children within their families, schools and society. © 2014 John Wiley & Sons Ltd and National Children's Bureau.