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ASAN Denounces Court Ruling on Electric Skin Shock

The Autistic Self Advocacy Network is heartbroken and outraged by today’s court decision striking down a regulation that would have banned the use of the graduated electronic decelerator (GED), a skin shock device used on people with disabilities. These devices, which the United Nations has recognized as torture, involve causing severe pain in an attempt to control behavior and are only used at the Judge Rotenberg Center (JRC), an institution in Massachusetts. 

The disability community has fought for decades against the use of skin shocks on our people. Last year, after receiving extensive input from experts and community members, the FDA finalized regulations that banned the manufacture, distribution, and use of skin shock devices. The regulation was finalized four years after it had been introduced and six years after an expert panel had recommended the ban, with strong bipartisan support. Over 300,000 people had signed a petition urging the FDA to act. 

Instead of following the new regulations, the JRC immediately filed a lawsuit against the FDA so that they could continue torturing people with disabilities. This lawsuit was only the most recent of a long string of aggressive lawsuits fighting attempts to curb their abuses of human rights. Although the trial court had initially upheld the FDA’s regulations, today the DC Circuit overturned that decision because the FDA’s regulation specifically bans the use of the GED for one purpose (behavior modification). The DC Circuit Court ruled that the FDA has the authority to ban a device completely, but does not have the authority to ban only one possible use of a device. The next step is clear: the FDA must completely ban the GED and similar devices. ASAN calls on the FDA to immediately pursue a new, complete ban. We will continue to advocate fiercely until this torture is finally ended.

Our community is currently grieving and outraged on behalf of the many disabled people who will continue to experience daily abuse as a result of this decision. But our fight is not over, and we are not giving up. ASAN will continue to use every tool at our disposal and work with state and federal policymakers to end the torture at the JRC and all other uses of aversive treatment. We will not rest until no disabled person is subjected to torture in the name of “treatment”. 

The Autistic Self Advocacy Network seeks to advance the principles of the disability rights movement with regard to autism. ASAN believes that the goal of autism advocacy should be a world in which autistic people enjoy equal access, rights, and opportunities. We work to empower autistic people across the world to take control of our own lives and the future of our common community, and seek to organize the autistic community to ensure our voices are heard in the national conversation about us. Nothing About Us, Without Us!

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