This Massachusetts Center Uses Electronic Shock 'Therapy' on Autistic People

  • by: s.e.
  • target: FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb
At a facility for people with autism and other developmental, cognitive, and intellectual disabilities called the Judge Rotenberg Center in Canton, Massachusetts, some residents are subjected a unique, and horrific "treatment." Staff members are required to wear controls for electric shocks at all times and use them to subdue residents. The residents never know when another shock is coming, or how many shocks they'll get.

The school says this intervention is necessary for people with "severe" disabilities and some parents praise it. Disability rights advocates, many experts, and the UN think it's something else: Torture.

"It's not humane, you don't even feel like a person, you have wires all over your body. I would get five or ten shocks for just doing one thing." That's how Jennifer Msumba, a former resident, described her time there.

If you're horrified at the thought of shocking autistic people at random and calling it "treatment," you're not alone, but this practice is perfectly legal. The devices used at the JRC are known as graduated electronic decelerators (GEDs), and their use is endorsed by Massachusetts courts as well as the federal government.

It doesn't have to be this way, though. In 2016, the FDA drafted regulations to ban GEDs, but the agency has yet to finalize them. We're calling on FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb and his boss, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, to stop the shock at the JRC and finalize these rules, barring the use of GEDs at the JRC.

Shocking people and callingit "therapy" is like something out of the 19th century. It doesn't comply with current standards of care. It leaves people permanently traumatized.

So we're asking Scott and Alex: What's the holdup? Finalize these rules today so autistics can live in a better world tomorrow.

Photo credit: Disability rights activist Dawn Russell protests outside Commissioner Gottlieb's house, National ADAPT/Facebook
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