Rosalind Osgood, Carolina Amesty seek ban on shock therapy for children

Adult and child hands holding encephalography brain paper cutout
The procedure remains legal in Florida.

Florida still allows shock therapy to be used on children. But two lawmakers are working across the aisle to ban the practice.

Sen. Rosalind Osgood, a Tamarac Democrat, filed a bill (SB 252) in the Senate. Rep. Carolina Amesty, a Windermere Republican, is carrying a companion bill (HB 255) in the House to outlaw the practice.

Specifically, the legislation would prohibit the use of electroconvulsive treatment (ECT) and psychosurgical procedures on minors, and make clear the procedures can only be done on adult patients by a licensed physician.

“In Florida, we prioritize the well-being and safety of our children above all else,” Amesty said.

“As we advance in medical knowledge and techniques, we must ensure that all medical interventions provided, especially to our youngest citizens, are both current and evidence-based. With inconclusive data on the long-term impacts of ECT, our duty is clear: to protect our children from potential harm and advocate for transparency in every step of their care.”

Florida law right now doesn’t legally define electroconvulsive treatment or psychosurgical procedures. The bill would add definitions of both to state law.

Electroconvulsive therapy, or shock therapy, would be defined as “psychiatric treatment that involves sending an electric current through the brain while the patient is under anesthesia.” The bill would recognize psychosurgical procedures as any “neurological surgery used to treat a mental disorder.”

The lawmakers said while the controversial practices have been employed for decades, there has been little to no benefit, but detrimental side effects have been shown to exist.

“Florida’s children deserve better when looking at the issues dealing with mental and behavioral health than an archaic and possibly dangerous treatment,” Osgood said. “Medical advances allow for additional treatment models never considered when ECT was discovered. I believe Florida needs to protect our children from ECT and its detrimental side effects on children.”

The American Psychiatric Association says electroconvulsive therapy has been shown to relieve major depression and is sometimes used to treat bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. But it is typically only employed when other medications and other psychotherapy do not prove effective. But while the APA says the treatment is very effective at treating episodes of serious medical illness, it does not prevent the return of illness in the future.

The treatment also carries the risk of memory loss and difficulty in learning, along with other risks associated with anesthesia. On the website for the Thymatron ECT device, manufacturers note risks of headache, muscle soreness, mild to moderate pain/discomfort including jaw pain,  nausea, disorientation immediately after seizure induction, and memory dysfunction.

The National Institutes of Health has published studies as psychiatrists and neurosurgeons question the use of psychosurgical procedures to treat various mental disorders. The surgeries can be used for depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected].

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