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FDA Considers Caving to Scientology and Making Mental Illness Treatment Illegal

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While Congress is considering health care legislation that
would provide more coverage for individuals with severe mental illness, as
far-fetched as it sounds, the FDA is considering making it more difficult to
treat depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and psychosis.

At the request of Scientology (and a few others), they are
considering requiring expensive new government testing for a treatment that has
been successfully used for years: electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). If the
‘testing’ isn’t done, the treatment will be taken off the market. And that is
the goal of Scientologists.  As the
LA Times pointed
out
“(The) Church of
Scientology… opposes virtually all psychiatric treatments.”

In 1976,
the FDA grandfathered continuing use of ECT, and many other devices, pending
FDA evaluation of safety and effectiveness. It is now 30 years later and the
treatment has been safely and effectively used ever since then.

In spite
of 40 years of success, the FDA—prodded by Scientology-- recently decided to
hold hearings on the safety and efficacy of this treatment. Depending on the
outcome, the manufacturers of the device might have to go through onerous
duplicative testing that has already been done in the real world.

The
manufacturers say the tests would be too expensive and therefore they would
have to get out the business. Doctors could be jailed for offering their
patients treatment.

The American Psychiatric
Association’s most recent
report
on ECT concludes

ECT is an effective antidepressant in all subtypes of major
depressive disorder

Dr.
Demitris Popolis wrote in Overcoming
Depression

There's been a resurgence of interest
in ECT because it has evolved into a safe option, one that works

ECT has a higher success rate or severe depression than any
other form of treatment…

It is particularly useful for people who … cannot take
antidepressants due to problems of health or lack of response and pregnant
women who suffer from depression or mania. A patient who is very intent on
suicide, and who would not wait three weeks for an antidepressant to work,
would be a good candidate for ECT because it works more rapidly.

Kitty Dukakis in her book,
“Shock” credited ECT with saving
her life
.

Rolland
Kohloff, principal timpanist for the New York Philharmonic Orchestra saw how
ECT helped his son with schizophrenia. When Mr. Kohloff developed his own
severe depression, he decided to try it himself. As he said in the New York
Times
, “What I think it did was to act like a Roto-Rooter on the
depression."

 Dick Cavett told People Magazine,

“In my case, ECT was miraculous. My wife was dubious, but when she
came into my room afterward, I sat up and said, 'Look who's back among the
living.' It was like a magic wand."

In spite its obvious efficacy,
ECT (and all treatments for the mentally ill) has opponents. Rael Jean
Isaacs Madness
in the Streets
is the best book on the anti-treatment, anti-ECT, often
Scientologist crowd.

While there is some opposition to ECT from non-Scientologists, Scientologists believe “The
concept that a brain-based, chemical imbalance underlies mental illness is
false.” They believe mental illness doesn’t exist and treatment for it is
torture.  It is
their right to believe whatever they want. But my choice of treatment should
not be dictated by it. 

In response to a previous effort by Scientologists to ban
ECT, Laurie Flynn, former Executive Director of the National
Alliance on Mental Illness
wrote a 1995 letter
to Bernie Arons, Director of the Center For Mental Health Services:

As you know, there are widespread efforts led by Scientologists and other anti-psychiatric groups underway
throughout the country to ban ECT as an available treatment and to criminalize
the prescription of ECT by physicians treating individuals with severe
depressive illnesses. These groups ignore the extensive, uncontroverted
evidence in the scientific literature that ECT is both safe and effective as a
treatment for severe depression. Consequently, it is critically important that
any statement coming from CMHS must focus on medical aspects of ECT and avoid
the “politics” of ECT.

The FDA
should avoid the politics too.  They
should immediately reclassify electroconvulsive devices as “Class II” devices,
rather than keeping them in Class III which requires the manufacturers to go
through expensive and unnecessary laboratory testing to prove what patients and
doctors know: ECT works.

You can submit
your comments to the FDA in favor of reclassifying ECT to Class II by clicking
the ‘submit’ button at the top right hand side of the page of the FDA public
docket
.

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