FOX UNDERCOVER (MyFoxBoston.com) -- The majority of members on an FDA advisory panel recommended this evening to ban the devices that deliver painful electric shocks to disabled students at the Judge Rotenberg Center, saying the risks of the devices used for aversive therapy outweigh the benefits.
“What happened today is a big step forward in the fight to ban aversives and to free those currently at the judge Rotenberg Center,” said disability rights activist Ari Ne’eman, who attended the hearing.
The panel of experts’ will make several recommendations to the US Food and Drug Administration regarding the use of the shocks for treatment. The only place they are used in the country is at the Canton-based Judge Rotenberg Center.
The Rotenberg Center defended the devices, known as Graduated Electronic Decelerators, or GEDs, saying they can be the only thing stopping severely disabled students from engaging in destructive, self-injurious behavior.
“No other treatment facility is willing to take these kids in most cases,” said Rotenberg Center Executive Director Glenda Crookes. “The data demonstrate a clear clinical need for these devices. Those utilizing this therapy at JRC have failed at all other treatment centers. They have failed at JRC prior to the utilization of the GED devices. Our parents are often told there are other options. There are not for these families. They've all been tried and all failed.”
The shocks have always been controversial, but momentum against them has picked up thanks in part to the release of video of former student Andre McCollins being restrained and shocked for hours.
FOX Undercover's coverage of the case was played before the FDA advisory panel by one of the many opponents of the practice.
“She wanted people to see that it’s really torture, that it’s incredibly painful,” said University of Delaware Professor Nancy Weiss, who also attended the hearing.
“Although the Judge Rotenberg Center says that they use these electric shocks for dangerous and self-injurious behaviors, the vast majority of shocks are used for behaviors like standing up or getting out of your seat or speaking when not spoken to. And so people there really don't get to the point of having dangerous behaviors because they're shocked for anything that they do that's not within the control of their staff,” Weiss said.
An FDA spokesperson said the FDA “will consider all available information, including the advisory committee’s input, when considering any future regulatory action.”