CCHR Calls on the FDA to Pull Plug on Judge Rotenberg Center Electroshocking Kids—UN Calls Use of Electroshock as Punishment Akin to Torture

The mental health watchdog, Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR), calls upon the FDA to ban the electrical stimulation device being used to administer electric shocks to children at the Judge Rotenberg Center in Canton, Massachusetts.

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18-year-old Andre McCollins was shocked 31 times by staff at the Judge Rotenberg Center.

Relating to the Judge Rotenberg Center, Juan E. Mendez, United Nations Special Rapporteur stated, 'electric shock and physical means of restraints have been violated under the U.N. Convention against Torture and other international standards.'

Los Angeles, California (PRWEB) August 08, 2014

With its use of electroshock used as punishment for misbehaving youth, the Judge Rotenberg Center (JRC) has been dubbed “the school of shock,” by Mother Jones Magazine, and its practices likened to torture by the United Nations.[1] Now the FDA must rule whether the device being used to inflict shock treatment on troubled kids, called “aversive conditioning,” should be banned. CCHR is calling on the FDA to uphold an earlier FDA panel recommendation and enforce a ban upon the device being used on children.

In the Rotenberg Center’s four decades of operation, six children have died, numerous lawsuits have been filed [McCollins guardian v. Von Heyn, et al., NO CV 2008-02146, Norfolk Superior Court; Cepeda v. Kass, 62 Mass. App. Ct. 732, 819 N.E.2d 979, 2004 Mass. App. LEXIS 1459; Judge Rotenberg Educ. Ctr. v. Maul, 91 N.Y.2d 298, 693 N.E.2d 200, 670 N.Y.S.2d 173, 1998 N.Y. LEXIS 607], and two UN Special Rapporteurs on Torture have spoken out against the abusive practice.[2] FOX news aired a clip showing a child screaming in agony as he is repeatedly shocked, yet the practice continues.[3]

In April of this year, a special advisory panel of the FDA recommended a ban on the use of electrical stimulation devices for child behavior control or “aversive conditioning” at the Rotenberg Center.[4] Despite the recommendations from the panel, the FDA has not yet acted to ban the devices being used. [5]

In 2010, Manfred Nowak, the UN's Special Rapporteur on Torture, said that when he finished reading a report issued by Mental Disability Rights Institute, he sent an urgent appeal to the U.S. government, urging an investigation into the school. "This is torture,'' said Nowak.[6]

In 2013, Juan E. Mendez, the new United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, wrote that the rights of the students at Judge Rotenberg Center who have been subjected to "electric shock and physical means of restraints have been violated under the U.N. Convention against Torture and other international standards."[7]

CCHR states that, “Considering that the U.S. Department of Justice and the United Nations have already cited the use of ‘aversion therapy’ at JRC as torture and possible violations of civil rights, one can only wonder what the holdup is with the FDA.”[8]

While proponents of the electroshock devices explain that they are harmless, those who have been on the receiving end tell of a very different experience:

  •     During the April FDA public hearing on the JRC devices, nearly 20 advocacy and patient representative groups provided testimony, calling the products “unsafe,” “inhumane,” and a form of torture. Even the American Civil Liberties Union in Washington, D.C., testified that “the use of noxious [harmful or injurious] electrical stimulants is inhumane.”[9]
  •     One patient explained that it feels “like a thousand bees stinging you in the same place for a few seconds,” adding “it is torture, in the plainest sense of the word.”[10]
  •     Former students told the panel they had been shocked “for things like noncompliance with staff direction, talking too much and being disruptive in class.”[11]

In deciding on whether a ban should be imposed, the FDA said “the absence of systematic data establishing the effectiveness of the devices makes the study of ESDs [electric shock devices] for aversive conditioning more difficult to justify.”[12]

CCHR states, “What is already known by the FDA, given the testimony they’ve received of the harm being inflicted on children with the use of these electric devices, it is difficult to justify the FDA not acting swiftly to right a terrible, inhumane wrong.”

Read the full article here.

About Citizens Commission on Human Rights: CCHR is a non-profit, non-political, non-religious mental health watchdog. Its mission is to eradicate abuses committed under the guise of mental health and enact patient and consumer protections. CCHR has helped to enact more than 150 laws protecting individuals from abusive or coercive mental health practices.

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[1] Jennifer Gonnerman, “The School of Shock,” Mother Jones, 20 Aug 2007, motherjones.com/politics/2007/08/school-shock; “Report of the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Juan E. Méndez,” Human Rights Council, Twenty-second Session, Agenda Item 3, p. 84, 4 Mar 2013, ohchr.org/Documents/HRBodies/HRCouncil/RegularSession/Session22/A.HRC.22.53.Add.4_Advance_version.pdf.

[2] Jennifer Gonnerman, “The School of Shock,” Mother Jones, 20 Aug 2007, motherjones.com/politics/2007/08/school-shock; Laurie Ahern, "Disabled children at Mass. school are tortured, not treated," The Washington Post, 2 Oct 2010, washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/09/17/AR2010091705376.html; “Report of the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Juan E. Méndez,” Human Rights Council, Twenty-second Session, Agenda Item 3, p. 84, 4 Mar 2013, ohchr.org/Documents/HRBodies/HRCouncil/RegularSession/Session22/A.HRC.22.53.Add.4_Advance_version.pdf.

[3] Mike Beaudet, "U.N. investigating Judge Rotenberg Center’s use of shocks," MyFoxBoston, 20 June 2012, myfoxboston.com/story/18840703/2012/06/20/un-investigating-judge-rotenberg-centers-use-of-shocks.

[4] Kevin Rothstein, “FDA panel recommends banning shock devices,” My Fox Boston, 24 Apr 2014, myfoxboston.com/story/25335849/fda-panel-recommends-banning-shock-devices.

[5] Anna Werner, "Controversy over shocking people with autism, behavioral disorders," CBS Evening News, 5 Aug 2014, cbsnews.com/news/controversy-over-shocking-people-with-autism-behavioral-disorders/.

[6] Laurie Ahern, "Disabled children at Mass. school are tortured, not treated," The Washington Post, 2 Oct 2010, washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/09/17/AR2010091705376.html.

[7] “Report of the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Juan E. Méndez,” Human Rights Council, Twenty-second Session, Agenda Item 3, p. 84, 4 Mar 2013, ohchr.org/Documents/HRBodies/HRCouncil/RegularSession/Session22/A.HRC.22.53.Add.4_Advance_version.pdf.

[8] Laurie Ahern, "Disabled children at Mass. school are tortured, not treated," The Washington Post, 2 Oct 2010, washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/09/17/AR2010091705376.html; “Report of the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Juan E. Méndez,” Human Rights Council, Twenty-second Session, Agenda Item 3, p. 84, 4 Mar 2013, ohchr.org/Documents/HRBodies/HRCouncil/RegularSession/Session22/A.HRC.22.53.Add.4_Advance_version.pdf.

[9] Transcript of Neurological Devices Panel Meeting of April 24, 2014, Center for Devices and Radiological Health Medical Devices Advisory Committee, Food and Drug Administration, Department of Health and Human Services, 24 Apr 2014, fda.gov/downloads/AdvisoryCommittees/CommitteesMeetingMaterials/MedicalDevices/MedicalDevicesAdvisoryCommittee/NeurologicalDevicesPanel/UCM398417.pdf.

[10] “FDA Executive Summary, Prepared for the April 24, 2014 meeting of the Neurological Devices Panel, Electrical Stimulation Devices for Aversive Conditioning,” Food and Drug Administration, 2014, fda.gov/downloads/AdvisoryCommittees/CommitteesMeetingMaterials/MedicalDevices/MedicalDevicesAdvisoryCommittee/NeurologicalDevicesPanel/UCM394256.pdf.

[11] Dennis Thompson, “FDA reconsiders behavior-modifying ‘shock devices,’” CBS News, 24 Apr 2014, cbsnews.com/news/fda-reconsiders-behavior-modifying-shock-devices/.

[12] “FDA Executive Summary, Prepared for the April 24, 2014 meeting of the Neurological Devices Panel, Electrical Stimulation Devices for Aversive Conditioning,” Food and Drug Administration, 2014, fda.gov/downloads/AdvisoryCommittees/CommitteesMeetingMaterials/MedicalDevices/MedicalDevicesAdvisoryCommittee/NeurologicalDevicesPanel/UCM394256.pdf.