For those who remain at larger residential institutions, the horrors of yesteryear have generally ended. In 2012, however, a ten-year-old video surfaced, showing disturbing image of an electric shock device at the Judge Rotenberg Center in Canton Massachusetts. Staffers tied one student to a restraint board and shocked him 31 times over seven hours, ignoring his screamed pleas to stop. The Rotenberg Center is the only one in the nation that admits to using electric shocks on people with developmental disabilities, including autism. Center officials said that they had stopped using restraint boards but insisted that shocks were necessary in extreme cases to prevent officials insist the shock program is a last resort that prevents people with severe disorders from hurting themselves or others. Though a majority of the FDA’s Neurological Devices Panel said that such devises pose “an unreasonable and substantial risk of illness or injury,” the agency had not banned them as of 2014.From Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT):
In a letter to Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Robert M. Califf, U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) led U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.) in applauding the FDA for proposing a rule to ban electrical stimulation devices (ESDs) and urging the FDA to quickly implement the ban. The use of ESDs, particularly on children, has been associated with depression, anxiety, learned helplessness, worsening of self-injurious behaviors, symptoms of PTSD, pain, and burns. Despite research confirming the substantial health risks of ESDs, the devices are still legal in the United States and continue to be used as behavioral therapy at the Judge Rotenberg Educational Center, a facility in Massachusetts. In their letter to the FDA, the senators point out that there have been significant scientific, therapeutic, and pharmacologic advances that provide safer, more effective behavioral therapy solutions.
“The use of these electric shock devices as aversive therapy for individuals with developmental disabilities is inhumane, especially since many of these individuals have difficulty communicating and alternative effective treatment options are available,” wrote the senators. “Put simply, it is outrageous that this practice is allowed in the United States for this vulnerable population and it should be stopped immediately. As such, we urge you to finalize the proposed rule as quickly as possible.”
The full text of the letter is available here