April 26, 2014

Presumed Prudence Leaves Children Susceptible to Electroshock (2014)

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.