Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Disability Rights Groups (and SEIU) Urge FDA to Bar Electric Shocks at Judge Rotenberg Center

See this letter, signed by a very broad assortment of disability rights organizations and by the Service Employees International Union (which has been a great ally of disability rights causes).  It begins:
We, the undersigned representatives of the disability and human rights community, are writing to express our gratitude for your recent actions regarding the Judge Rotenberg Center in Canton, Massachusetts. It is our hope that the FDA will continue to lead policy changes to eliminate the use of contingent electric shock and other aversive interventions. Aversives – the use of pain as a means of behavior modification – are an inherently unsafe and unsupported type of medical treatment. The FDA’s efforts to address this issue are welcomed and we urge you to continue to expand your activities in this area. 
In particular, the FDA should undertake further action to prevent the continued use of all Graduated Electronic Decelerator (GED) devices on residents at the Judge Rotenberg Center. We recommend the immediate revocation of “cleared” status for the GED-1, in light of the long track record of evidence showing its lack of safety. Furthermore, we recommend refusal to grant “cleared” or “approved” status for other iterations of the GED, including the GED-3A and the GED-4. 
In order to prevent continued use of these unapproved and potentially dangerous devices on residents, the Judge Rotenberg Center should be ordered to immediately end usage of all GED devices. These devices are used for the stated purpose of aversive behavioral modification – inflicting pain on students when they engage in unwanted behavior. However, there is no empirical evidence that suggests the shocks are effective as a form of treatment in addressing these behaviors. Furthermore, staff members at the Judge Rotenberg Center have been documented to frequently apply the GED as punishment for behaviors that do not endanger residents or others, in direct contravention to its claimed purpose. These abuses are not the actions of isolated individuals but relate to documented policies and practices that are core to the planned use of the GED device.

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