Capitol Correspondence - 06.25.24

Congressional Efforts to Maintain Use of Electric Shock Devices Amid FDA Ban Proposal

Share this page

As the FDA considers banning electric shock devices for individuals with developmental disabilities, congressional efforts are underway to hinder the agency’s plans. A bill advancing in the U.S. House of Representatives aims to limit the FDA’s authority to ban these devices, which are used to prevent self-injurious or aggressive behaviors by delivering electrical shocks through skin-attached electrodes.

Currently, there is only one known facility using these devices. The FDA ended its comment period on the proposed ban in May, receiving over 8,700 responses. Previously, in 2020, the FDA banned the devices, citing significant psychological and physical risks, but this regulation was overturned by a federal court in 2021. Congress has since clarified the FDA’s authority to ban such devices, prompting the current proposal.

However, a rider attached to a federal appropriations bill would block the FDA from banning any device. This rider, if approved, would nullify the FDA’s efforts to prohibit the use of electric shock devices to prevent self-injurious or aggressive behaviors.

ANCOR, along with other partners such as the Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN), are actively lobbying as a coalition against this rider, which will be voted on by the House Appropriations Committee on July 10. The coalition emphasizes the importance of preserving the FDA’s power to end what they describe as “electric shock torture.”

Some defend the use of these devices, arguing that they are essential for clients for whom other treatment options have failed. As of March, about 50 individuals at the center had treatment plans that included the use of electric shock devices.

The outcome of the legislative efforts and the FDA’s final decision on the ban will significantly impact the future use of electric shock devices and their use for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.