Let’s Electroshock Children Who Misbehave
In March of 2020 the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) banned the Judge Rotenberg Educational Center in Canton, Massachusetts from using electric shock devices on their autistic and other mentally troubled children. In July of 2021 a federal appeals court removed the ban. The school is once again electro shocking about 60 students a day.
The school administers electric skin shocks in a form of “aversion therapy” for aggressive or self-injurious behavior. School staff trigger a shock to a child by using a remote control that zaps children with electric current when they misbehave. The school calls this a “medical device.” Since 1987 a state court must determine that such forced treatment is appropriate.
This electrical stimulation device delivers a powerful and painful electric shock to the wearer’s skin in an effort to punish. This school is the only facility in the country that uses coercive electric shock therapy to “treat” individuals who severely self-injure or are aggressive.
The FDA finally recognized in March 2020 (after 20 years) that these devices “present substantial psychological and physical risks and, in fact, can worsen underlying symptoms—while leading to heightened anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.”
Unfortunately, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia overturned the FDA ban on July 6, 2021, stating that the ban was a regulation of the practice of medicine, which is outside the FDA’s area of authority.
The History of Abuse
In April 2016, the FDA first proposed banning electrical stimulation devices for self-injurious or aggressive behavior.
In 2018, the media reported that the Judge Rotenberg Educational Center would be allowed to continue administering electric shocks to its special needs students after a judge ruled the procedure conformed to the “accepted standard of care,” in spite of the practice being condemned by disability rights groups and the ACLU.
On December 3, 2018, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of The Organization of American States published a Precautionary Measure calling for the school to immediately cease electroshocking special needs children as a disciplinary measure.
In March 2020 the FDA finally determined that the devices presented a substantial and unreasonable risk to self-injurious and aggressive patients, justifying banning the devices for that purpose.
The Appeals Court
The appeals court examined the question, “Does the FDA have legal authority to ban an otherwise legal device from a particular use?”
The court concluded that current law prohibits the FDA from regulating the practice of medicine, and therefore it vacated the FDA’s rule banning electrical stimulation devices for self-injurious and aggressive behavior. There was one dissenting opinion; the Chief Judge found in favor of the FDA. [Read the full court opinion here.]
Of course, the lie in the argument is that electro shocking children is “practicing medicine.” In fact it is torture, not medicine.
The Case Against Torture
The United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment has remarked that Electro Convulsive Treatment (ECT) amounts to torture. The World Health Organization (WHO) has also stated that there are no indications for the use of ECT on minors. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) calls for a ban on “forced treatment.”
Granted that ECT is more severe than electric skin shocks, just have someone force you to stick your finger into an electric wall socket and tell us that this is not torture.
“Disguising social control as medical treatment is a deceit which conceals an abuse.” This is a de facto abuse of power, as it seeks to limit and control the individual instead of helping the individual to get better and improve their conditions in life.
In the United Nations July 24, 2018 Annual Report of the High Commissioner “Mental health and human rights,” it states, “States should ensure that all health care and services, including all mental health care and services, are based on the free and informed consent of the individual concerned, and that legal provisions and policies permitting the use of coercion and forced interventions, including involuntary hospitalization and institutionalization, the use of restraints, psychosurgery, forced medication, and other forced measures aimed at correcting or fixing an actual or perceived impairment, including those allowing for consent or authorization by a third party, are repealed. States should reframe and recognize these practices as constituting torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and as amounting to discrimination against users of mental health services, persons with mental health conditions and persons with psychosocial disabilities.”
The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, formally adopted on December 10, 1948 states, “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”
CCHR’s own Mental Health Declaration of Human Rights, written in 1969, states these rights, among others:
“The right to refuse any treatment the patient considers harmful.”
“No person shall be given psychiatric or psychological treatment against his or her will.”