Food and Drug Administration Conducts Public Hearing on the Risks of Aversive Electric Shock to Modify Behaviors

A majority of members of an advisory panel to the Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) indicated that the risks of using aversive electric shock to modify behaviors outweighed the benefits of such procedures. The Neurological Devices Panel of the Medical Devices Advisory Committee to the FDA conducted a public hearing at which The Arc and 12 other disability advocacy organizations testified against use of aversive procedures, such as electric shock, on individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The majority of the panel concluded that electrical stimulation devices (ESDs) intended to administer a noxious electrical stimulus for the treatment of self-injurious behavior (SIB) and aggressive behavior presented a substantial and unreasonable risk of illness or injury.

The only facility that uses electric shock devices currently is the Judge Rotenberg Center (JRC) in Canton, Massachusetts. The Center manufactures and uses the Graduated Electronic Decelerator, or GED. Versions of the device being used at JRC are unapproved modifications of a 1994 FDA-approved GED. Staff from JRC as well as parents of individuals at the Center offered testimony during the hearing defending use of the GED. JRC has been investigated by authorities in New York and Massachusetts and by the United Nations. The Department of Justice has an on-going investigation of the Center.

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