In March 2020, the FDA banned the use of ESDs, also known as electrical stimulation devices, which electrically shock children who engage in unwanted behavior. In particular, the FDA has banned the use of the devices, which are deeply controversial, at the Judge Rotenberg Center, an “institution and school” in Canton, Massachusetts that specifically serves children with autism or other developmental disabilities. or emotional. .
As of Tuesday, July 7, the FDA order has been rescinded and the school can use ESDs if they wish.
On Tuesday, a federal appeals court ruled that the FDA could not prevent the school from using ESDs. They ruled that the “FDA does not have the legal authority to ban a medical device for a particular use”.
The school claims that since the devices were introduced in the 1980s, they have been “a victory for the Judge Rotenberg educational center and a group of parents and guardians of its students.” The school welcomes students with severe disabilities, some of whom have been expelled from other educational settings for behavioral problems. Through New York magazine, The JRC is a “school of last resort … [that] runs a controversial behavior modification program, where the repertoire of punishments includes painful electric shocks.
The devices, worn through backpacks, have wires that run from backpacks, pass through clothing, and attach electrodes to arms and legs.
The school and a parent association say they are happy that shock devices can be used as a “treatment of last resort” and that those who receive the shocks are “at risk of serious bodily harm or even death without it.” . With treatment, these residents can continue to participate in meaningful experiences. The United Nations qualifies this treatment as torture.
The FDA ban was put in place after a gruesome video showed a school resident named Andre McCollins being shocked 31 times in seven hours in 2002. (The video came out years later.) offense? He didn’t want to take his jacket off. For the misconduct, McCollins, who cried out in pain while being shocked 31 times while physically immobilized, spent a month in hospital afterward.
Another student named Rico Torres, now 24, told reporters that he wore electrodes attached to his skin for 24 hours a day for 10 years, ages 8 to 18. As part of his court-approved treatment plan, Torres was allowed to be shocked if he ran away, swore, screamed, didn’t follow instructions, or urinated “inappropriately.”
A 2007 profile of former Rotenberg student / resident Rob Santana in Mother Jones detailed a traumatized former student who attended school for about three years. This profile also detailed a parent who sued the establishment in 2007 after their 17-year-old was shocked 79 times in 18 months. (The devices are now only approved for people 18 years of age and older.) Some 50+ center participants are approved for therapy out of 300 other participants.
While parents at the school are grateful for the decision, (“We have and will continue to fight to keep our loved ones safe and alive and to maintain access to this life-saving treatment of last resort,” said one. release) and argue that the treatment has changed the lives of their children, lawyers with disabilities, lawyers and justice activists are distraught.
Autistic advocacy group fighting for #StopTheShock says children with disabilities at JRC get shocks for things such as clapping, getting up without permission, swearing, not taking off your jacket, making involuntary noises or movements, or screaming in pain while already being shocked. The JRC is the only center in the United States that administers electric shocks to punish people with disabilities; and the group claims that people with disabilities who receive ESDs have “developed PTSD, depression and anxiety disorders.”
The FDA says use of the devices worsens “underlying symptoms, depression, anxiety, [PTSD], pain, burns and tissue damage.
A disability justice lawyer by the name of Shain Neumeier spoke to MassLive and said the state of Massachusetts should seek to help parents place their children in non-JRC locations. “They should find places in the community where they can live independently. Where they can overcome this and receive service with their family and friends.
Defenders also told the local publication that they wanted more than a ban on ESD use – not even having that anymore – and instead needed more from the state.
“A ban will do nothing to undo the decades of torture those confined to the JRC have had to endure so far … Massachusetts has a responsibility to compensate survivors,” said disability rights expert Lydia Brown .
Now ESD survivors will have to start over.