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Statement on FDA Proposed Rule Banning Use of Electric Shock Devices

On April 22, 2016, the Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN) issued the following statement on the proposed FDA rule to ban the use of electric shock devices such as those used at the Judge Rotenberg Center.

Today, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a proposed rule to ban the use of electrical shock devices.[1] These are such as those used at the Judge Rotenberg Center in Canton, Massachusetts, which routinely shocks its disabled students.[2] ASAN is pleased that the FDA has finally taken action as a result of hearings regarding electric shock devices two years ago, at which ASAN representatives and other disability rights advocates testified.[3]

This proposed rule is one step out of many in the regulatory process to ban the use of electric shock devices in the United States. The rule will be formally released and available for public comment in the Federal Register on April 25. ASAN will submit formal public comments as part of this process. Other self-advocates’ public comments are vital to this process. We urge you to submit your comments on the proposed rule. You may submit comments electronically starting April 25 via the Federal eRulemaking Portal at http://www.regulations.gov, entering the docket number  FDA-2016-N-1111 and following its other instructions. You may also submit written public comment by mail to the Division of Dockets Management (HFA-305), Food and Drug Administration, 5630 Fishers Lane, rm. 1061, Rockville, MD 20852.

The use of contingent electric shock devices is an inhumane practice and as the FDA has noted on the decline for decades, as ways of supporting people arise that are humane and do not involve painful, violent aversives gain traction.[4] The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture has declared the use of electric shock as torture.[5] At ASAN, we believe that contingent electric shock – and all aversive interventions – are indeed torture and everyone has the right to be supported with dignity, humanity and respect. The use of contingent electric shock and other aversives have never been appropriate and have always constituted an unscientific and unethical practice. We will be submitting comments to that effect. The chance to end this torture in the United States is at hand, and we urge individuals to do all they can to make sure it does.

[1] Food and Drug Administration 21 CFR Parts 882 and 895 [Docket No. FDA-2016-N-1111] Banned Devices; Proposal to Ban Electrical Stimulation Devices Used to Treat Self-Injurious or Aggressive Behavior: https://s3.amazonaws.com/public-inspection.federalregister.gov/2016-09433.pdf

[2] Quentin Davies, “Prisoners of the Apparatus: The Judge Rotenberg Center” http://autisticadvocacy.org/2014/08/prisoners-of-the-apparatus-the-judge-rotenberg-center/

[3] Ari Ne’eman, “Testimony to the Neurological Devices Panel of the Medical Devices Advisory Committee of the FDA,” http://autisticadvocacy.org/2014/04/asan-testimony-to-the-neurological-devices-panel-of-the-medical-devices-advisory-committee-of-the-fda/

[4] Food and Drug Administration 21 CFR Parts 882 and 895 [Docket No. FDA-2016-N-1111] Banned Devices; Proposal to Ban Electrical Stimulation Devices Used to Treat Self-Injurious or Aggressive Behavior: https://s3.amazonaws.com/public-inspection.federalregister.gov/2016-09433.pdf

[5] Report of the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/HRBodies/HRCouncil/RegularSession/Session22/A.HRC.22.53_English.pdf

For further inquiries on this subject, please email Samantha Crane, ASAN’s Director of Public Policy, at scrane@autisticadvocacy.org; or Julia Bascom, ASAN’s Deputy Executive Director, at jbascom@autisticadvocacy.org 

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