Lawmakers drop plan to ban electric shock devices for people with IDD


A proposal to ban the use of electrical stimulation devices to combat self-harming or aggressive behavior is no longer part of a Food and Drug Administration bill in the US Senate. (Thought)

Despite pressure from disability rights advocates, federal lawmakers are backing away from a proposal to ban devices used to administer electric shocks to people with developmental disabilities.

The U.S. House of Representatives voted in June to end the use of so-called electrical stimulation devices, which send shocks through electrodes attached to the skin to condition people to refrain from engaging in self-injurious or aggressive behavior.

The devices are believed to be used at only one facility in the United States – the Judge Rotenberg Educational Center in Canton, Mass., which serves children and adults with developmental disabilities as well as those with behavioral and emotional problems .

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The House approved the ban as part of a sweeping bill reauthorizing Food and Drug Administration programs. But, a deal reached this week to allow the legislation to move forward in the Senate removed the electric shock device provision along with several other items.

“We are heartbroken and furious,” said Julia Bascom, executive director of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network. “The decision to go with a clean version of the bill was purely for political reasons.”

Bascom’s group and others have fought for years to end the use of electric shock devices on people with intellectual disabilities. In 2020, the FDA finalized a ban saying the devices pose an “unreasonable and substantial risk of illness or injury.” At the time, the agency cited evidence of psychological and physical risks, including burns, tissue damage, worsening of underlying symptoms, depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.

However, the FDA regulations were later overturned when the United States Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit determined that the agency exceeded its authority. As a result, disability advocates say congressional action is needed.

“People with IDD who are electrocuted at the JRC for getting up from their chairs do not have the luxury of indulging in the Senate process,” Bascom said. “Congress must act: every day without this ban is a failure of leadership.”

Bethany Lilly of The Arc said she and other advocates are now considering a big government spending bill that Congress is expected to pass at the end of the year as a possible way to ban gas-discharge devices. electric.

“It should be on every member’s list of things that need to be included in this package,” she said.

Rotenberg Center officials say 51 people at the center are currently using the electrical stimulation devices – which they call a “last resort treatment” – under court-approved and monitored plans.

“While we are pleased that the provision for life-saving electrical stimulation device (ESD) treatment was not included in the FDA’s reauthorization bill, parents and guardians of Judge’s clients Rotenberg Educational Center (JRC) will remain vigilant to ensure that this treatment remains available to those for whom all other treatment options have been tried and failed,” the Rotenberg Center said in a statement. ESD within the treatment plans of these clients is a matter of life and death.”

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