Court Overturns FDA Ban, Lets School To Use Electric Shock Treatment On Kids To "Correct Behaviour"

Court Overturns FDA Ban, Lets School To Use Electric Shock Treatment On Kids To "Correct Behaviour"

The Judge Rotenberg Educational Center has been justified over the years as the only effective way to control the students.

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The Judge Rotenberg Educational Center was called out a few years ago for the controversial practice of administering electric shocks to its students with disabilities to control their behavior. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had previously tried to ban this practice. In a 2018 report, it had stated, "We believe these products present an unreasonable and substantial risk to public health that cannot be corrected or eliminated through changes to the labeling. The FDA takes the act of banning a device only on rare occasions when it is necessary to protect public health." But now a federal court ruling has overturned this ban, allowing the shock treatments to continue.



Many of the students of the Rotenberg Center are equipped with a backpack that carries a battery and wires that are attached to their bodies. The wires deliver a two-second shock if they misbehave. "The idea that this is somehow treatment is absurd. It's sadistic and its torture," Laurie Ahern, president of the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit Disability Rights International told NPR. "Many, many, many advocates have been trying many things for many decades to close the doors of the Judge Rotenberg Center." This treatment has been justified over the years as the only effective way to control the students.



Among the people who have been at the receiving end of this cruel treatment are Luigi Disisto, an autistic man, and Rico Torres. They were both shocked to control their behavior. Torres was shocked for things like threatening to hit another student, swearing or screaming, refusing to follow directions, or "inappropriate urination" reported NBC News. An employee even admitted that he used to shock him in his sleep. Torres explained, "Because I didn't wake up, she shocked me. Then I ended up peeing the bed, so she shocked me again." He has lived with electrodes on his skin 24 hours a day for most of a decade until he was 18.



But the ban was challenged by not only the school but also a group of parents and guardians of students. They found that the treatment falls into medical regulations and was actually beyond the FDA’s remit of control. On this basis, the ban was overturned in a 2-1 opinion by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. After the ruling was passed, the school released a statement through their legal representatives, Michael Flammia of Eckert Seamans Cherin & Mellott. As per Reuters, they said: "With the treatment, these residents can continue to participate in enriching experiences, enjoy visits with their families and, most importantly, live in safety and freedom from self-injurious and aggressive behaviors."


An association of parents, represented by Max Stern of Todd & Weld, said in a statement: "We have and will continue to fight to keep our loved ones safe and alive and to retain access to this life-saving treatment of last resort."  Despite the ban, it is believed that there were hardly any changes made at the institution. On account of the court battles and the pandemic, none of the 55 residents currently approved for treatment with the device were required to transition off it until further legal decisions were made. This court ruling is a step back for those who have been fighting for disability rights for years.



The Guardian had reported that Matthew Israel, a psychologist with no medical training had come up with the treatment idea based on a novel called Walden Two. The book is a science fiction novel where, in a utopian society, science-based methods are used for altering people's behavior. Wendy Fournier, president of the National Autism Association, had stated. “I can’t believe that this place is still open. It should have closed years ago – for how many years have advocates been fighting against this so-called treatment? It’s mind-boggling.”




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