FDA Proposes Ban On Electrical Stimulation Devices For Self Injurious Or Aggressive Behavior

(The following is the transcript of Monday’s upcoming video in my ‘Thoughts On the Spectrum’ series. I want this subject to get attention so I’m putting it here as well. Below is the embed of the video if you’d prefer that.)

Hey everybody, Ultimate Oddball here. Today I’m going to talk about the recent proposal by the F.D.A. to ban the use of “electrical stimulation devices” to shock the wearer in order to treat aggressive or self-injurious behavior. These devices are being used on autistic people in the Judge Rotenberg Center on a regular basis despite what the F.D.A. characterizes as “numerous short- and long-term risks” associated with their use. The F.D.A. also points out that there is only one facility which uses E.S.D. for self injurious and aggressive behavior, and that’s the Judge Rotenberg Center, reflecting the severe decline in their usage in recent years.

The use of E.S.D. has been strongly protested in the autism advocacy community. It has also been criticized by the United Nations. Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan Mendez, appointed by the U.N., said in 2013 in a report to the Human Rights Council that use of punitive electric shock treatment and extended periods of restraint is “tantamount to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.” Medicare and Medicaid announced they would no longer pay for any treatment at the J.R.C. shortly after the F.D.A. sent a letter to the program in December, 2012, warning them the devices were unapproved and needed to be removed.

The use of electric shock as an aversive technique brings with it many inherently damaging effects. It not only causes physical pain, but also produces psychological trauma. In 2002, Andre Mccollins, who was in the care of the J.R.C., underwent thirty one electric shocks in a seven hour time period while in restraints. The given reasons were that he refused to take off his jacket, and then said ‘No’. Twenty nine of the shocks he received were for “tensing up” or “screaming”. He and his mother, Cheryl, filed a Medical Malpractice suit against the J.R.C. which went to trial in April, 2012. This was the first time video of the electric shocks being administered was publicly released, which lawyers for the J.R.C. had attempted to suppress. It seems likely that this was a large part of what spurred the F.D.A. into action.

One of the driving forces in bringing about this change is self advocates like the amazing ‘Autistic Hoya’, otherwise known as Lydia Brown, who does wonderful work in this area and writes excellent informative things which I highly recommend you check out. Things are in the hands of the F.D.A. now, though, and it’s up to them to make the ultimate decision. They are listening to the public, though, and accepting comments to consider. That’s why I’m going to ask you to go to the site in the description and write a quick comment saying that you think the use of Electrical Stimulation Devices to treat aggressive or self-injurious behavior should end for good.

This is especially important because the Judge Rotenberg Center stated publicly that it hoped parents who were in favor of electric shock treatment would comment. The right of a person to not be subjected to painful electric shock, however, is not dependent on the views of their parent. There is no allowance for actions which the United Nations and many others consider akin to torture. The scientific evidence does not back up the claims that E.S.D. is beneficial. In actuality, it’s much more likely that the overall effects are negative. Together we can end these practices.

Well, thanks for coming by, and have a good day.

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