Capitol Correspondence - 01.06.20

FDA Misses Deadline for Banning Electric Shock Devices

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ANCOR has long called for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to finalize a proposed rule to ban electronic shock devices in order to advance the human rights of individuals with disabilities. We will be continuing our work on this topic in 2020 because, as reported by WGBH:

“Federal regulatory officials missed a self-imposed deadline to ban a controversial device — only used in Massachusetts — that administers shocks to students with disabilities to control their behavior.

Jim McKinney, a spokesman for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, said this week that he could not provide an updated timeline for agency action to ban the controversial apparatus it hoped to prohibit by the end of 2019. ‘We estimate the best we can’ when setting deadlines he said, explaining the missed mark.

The Judge Rotenberg Educational Center in Canton, a privately operated, taxpayer-funded school that serves children and adults, is the only school in the country using an electric shock system to control students’ behaviors. Many of the students struggle with profound disorders that can cause severe aggressive and self-injurious behavior, like head-banging and biting.

Some family members of Rotenberg students say the shocks are the only way to keep their loved ones safe. But critics call the system torture. An FDA report found the short-term benefits of the shock device include a reduction of unhealthy behaviors, but risks involve burns to the skin, anxiety, fear and pain.

The FDA first proposed the ban in 2016. Two years later, then-FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb announced that the FDA planned to prohibit the devices, because they ‘present an unreasonable and substantial risk to public health.’”

Note: Edited to reflect corrections in the original story on 1/28/20.