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FDA makes obvious decision

Earlier this week, the Food and Drug Administration banned the use of electric-shock devices intended to correct or stop half self-harming or aggressive behavior in those with intellectual or behavioral disabilities.

The ban, although nationwide, is aimed at the Judge Rotenberg Educational Center in Canton, Massachusetts. The center has used the practice for decades, officials there said.

Students there – both youth and adults – would wear a backpack with a battery inside, following individual court approval of the practice. The intention, officials said, was to halt harmful or dangerous behavior to the student or other around them. Staff at the facility were in control of when electric shocks were given.

“Evidence indicates a number of significant psychological and physical risks are associated with the use of these devices, including worsening of underlying symptoms, depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, pain, burns and tissue damage,” the FDA said in a statement. “In addition, many people who are exposed to these devices have intellectual or developmental disabilities that make it difficult to communicate their pain.”

One would think, in 2020, that this barbaric practice would have been halted decades ago. Aside from the lack of proof that any type of shock therapy is beneficial over time when it comes to behavioral issues, the human-error factor is inescapable.

While we are certain that training was provided to staff at the facility, the question of how much is too much when deciding to administer shocks. There simply is too much room for abuse of this practice.

It also shows that there is much room for improvement in learning how to deal with intellectual or behavioral disabilities.

While we think the decision by the FDA is obvious, it’s a shame that it has taken so long to ban this practice. People, not matter their level of disability in these cases, deserve better, much more humane treatment. It truly is about time practices like these come to an end.