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A school for children with disabilities has won a legal battle that will allow it to continue to use electric shock treatment on its students.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has overturned its ban on electric shock treatment at the Judge Rotenberg Center, a school in Massachusetts for children with disabilities. The FDA had previously banned the use of electric shock on children, but the school administration along with parents challenged the ban.
The shock treatment, which was developed by the Judge Rotenberg Center, was being used to correct aggressive or self-harming behaviour in adults and children. Now the court of appeals for the DC Circuit has concluded that using electric shocks can be considered medical treatment, which means the FDA does not have control over such cases.
Following the ruling, the Judge Rotenberg Center released a statement outlining its stance on why electric shock treatment is beneficial for its students:
‘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 behaviours.’
The parents of children at the school also added to the statement, revealing why they support the decision:
‘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.’
While the Judge Rotenberg Center remains the only school to use electric shock treatment, the United Nations considers the use of electric shock as ‘torture’. In 2002 CBS Evening News released a video (below) of shock treatment taking place at the Judge Rotenberg Center.
Attorney Max Stern, who represents parent of children that attend the school, spoke to Massachusetts News about an example for why they wish to use shock treatment:
‘One client of ours is a woman who hit her head against the wall so many times that her retinas were detached. It was not until she went to multiple various other institutions, not until she got to JRC and got this treatment that she was able to get this behaviour under control so she could have surgery to make it possible for her to see again.’
According to a report conducted by the New York State Education Department, electric shock has allegedly also been used to treat much less extreme situations than the one mentioned by Stern. It was also used for ‘behaviours that are not aggressive, health dangerous or destructive, such as nagging, swearing and failing to maintain a neat appearance.’ The report also described that JRC failed to consider ‘the potential negative effects, such as depression or anxiety, that may result from the use of aversive behavioural strategies with certain individual students.’
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