Legislative bill bans electroshock therapy
Proposal includes criminal penalties on health-care providers who use treatment

Morris News Service

AUSTIN - A bill filed Tuesday would ban the use of electroconvulsive therapy in Texas and impose criminal penalties on health-care providers who use the therapy to treat patients.

''What we're talking about is psychiatric assault,'' said John Breeding, an Austin psychologist who backs the bill.

Dianna Loper of Houston said she suffers from epilepsy and was unable to recognize her husband and son after taking electroshock treatments.

''How many more deaths and brain-damaged people will it take before this state will stand up and ban this barbarian treatment?'' Loper asked.

But Richard Failla, chief executive officer of The Pavilion, a psychiatric hospital that is part of the Northwest Texas Health Care System in Amarillo, challenged those seeking to ban electroshock therapy to come up with ''credible scientific evidence'' that shows any adverse effects of the treatment. ''I challenge them to produce their data. It's not there,'' he said.

According to the American Psychiatric Association, electroshock therapy stimulates a patient's brain with a controlled series of electrical pulses to treat certain mental illnesses, such as severe clinical depression. The stimulus causes a seizure within the brain that lasts about a minute.

State Rep. Senfronia Thompson, a Houston Democrat who is sponsoring the bill, said she has heard from scores of ''aftershock'' victims who have suffered permanent afflictions - such as memory loss, learning disabilities and seizure disorders - as a result of the treatment.

''Few people are properly warned of the known dangers of shock treatment,'' Thompson said.

The Citizens Commission on Human Rights of Texas, which is supporting the bill, released Texas Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation reports indicating that 10 deaths in the state last year were associated with the use of electroshock. One of those deaths was at The Pavilion in Amarillo, according to an MHMR report.

Failla said the person to whom the report refers had a treatment several days before dying in Northwest Texas Hospital of complications from a medical problem. ''We have had no deaths whatsoever associated with the (treatments),'' he said.

According to the MHMR report, the death in Amarillo occurred within 14 days of the treatment.

Under Thompson's bill, using electroshock treatment on patients would be a misdemeanor offense, punishable by up to six months in jail, a fine of up to $10,000 or both. A similar bill that Thompson introduced in 1995 died in a House subcommittee.

The 1997 version of the bill is opposed by the Texas Society of PsychiatricPhysicians and the Texas Medical Association.

*Records show improper use of ECT in Texas hospitals

*Woman's death adds to controversy.

*Hospital pulls plug on shock treatments.

*Patient claims ECT caused her problems

*Texas passes watered-down ECT regulations.