FDA proposes a ban on electric shock devices such as used at the Judge Rotenberg Center

28 Apr

I’ll keep this simple and direct: the FDA has proposed a new rule: Banned Devices; Proposal to Ban Electrical Stimulation Devices Used to Treat Self-Injurious or Aggressive Behavior.

Here’s the summary from that document:

SUMMARY: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA or we) is proposing to ban electrical stimulation devices used to treat aggressive or self-injurious behavior. FDA has determined that these devices present an unreasonable and substantial risk of illness or injury that cannot be corrected or eliminated by labeling. FDA is proposing to include in this ban both new devices and devices already in distribution and use.


We are aware of only one manufacturer, JRC, that has recently manufactured ESDs and that currently uses ESDs, including devices that we have not previously cleared.

JRC is the Judge Rotenberg Center, a residential school in Massachusetts for disabled students, many of whom are autistic. The JRC uses the ESD’s (electrical stimulation devices) as punishments to try to control behavior for some of their students. According to the document, the JRC used their devices (called GED at the school) on 82 individuals in 2014.

The document states that a parent group from the school and 2 former students provided comments in support of keeping the shock devices. One student and

In addition to NASDDDS and a JRC parents group, referenced earlier, 15 other organizations concerned with the treatment and the rights of individuals with disabilities spoke at the Panel Meeting, all of which supported a ban. Twenty-two disability rights organizations submitted written comments to the Panel Meeting docket, one of which was signed by 23 disability rights groups. Nine of these organizations were among the 15 represented at the Panel Meeting. All of these comments support the ban. FDA also received a comment from the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division supportive of a ban, and we considered information from the National Council on Disability, the National Institutes of Health, and the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture.

The FDA is not just relying upon community input. They also note the scientific literature which shows significant risks of PTSD and anxiety and other adverse events following the use of shock devices.

Here is a survivor’s letter, an account from a former JRC student who was subjected to the shocks.

The JRC was in the news after a student was tied to a board for 7 hours and shocked 31 times. The original news story links are no longer valid, but I will try to find them and link to them here.

The shock devices just do not have a sound backing–scientifically or ethically. If this FDA rule goes into place, the days when disabled students in America can be subjected to electric shocks like these will come to an end.

By Matt Carey

5 Responses to “FDA proposes a ban on electric shock devices such as used at the Judge Rotenberg Center”

  1. capnkrunch April 29, 2016 at 02:47 #

    Will JRC staff be here to whitewash torture again? Tellingly there is little reference to what the literature says from supporters.

    Archived copy of the Fox News article:

    Can’t find the video. Here’s another interesting link though:

    Here’s hoping the FDA does the right thing.

  2. Todd W. April 29, 2016 at 13:17 #

    Banning these things cannot come soon enough.

  3. novalox April 29, 2016 at 17:47 #

    Good. The sooner this can be done the better.

  4. Sarah A April 29, 2016 at 18:35 #

    I’m not sure if I feel more glad that they’re finally banning them or outraged that they were ever used at all. Here’s hoping it passes.

  5. Dave Jersey (@RewardConsent) October 15, 2016 at 10:25 #

    The “data” is in. All Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) completely supports or is complicit to its own extremely painful ABA electric skin shock.


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