Story at a glance

  • A federal appeals court overturned Tuesday a Food and Drug Administration ban on electric shock devices used at the Judge Rotenberg Center in Massachusetts.
  • “In this case, the statute says that the FDA is not to construe its statute so as to interfere with the practice of medicine,” the opinion reads.
  • The devices are approved for use on 55 of the 300 people at the center.

A federal appeals court overturned Tuesday a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ban on electric shock devices used at the Judge Rotenberg Center (JRC) in Massachusetts — the only institution in the U.S. to use them. 

The FDA banned the use of electric stimulation devices (ESDs) in March 2020. But the court ruled the agency did not have the authority to regulate a medical practice, MassLive reported. JRC reportedly told the FDA that the treatments were used once per week. 

“In this case, the statute says that the FDA is not to construe its statute so as to interfere with the practice of medicine,” the opinion reads, per the outlet. “That means that the FDA may not enact the regulation at issue before us.”

The devices are approved for use on 55 of the 300 people at the center. 


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JRC began using the controversial devices in the 1980s, according to Mother Jones. A viral video from 2012 shows a student begging for the center to stop while receiving the treatment.  

“That hurts. That hurts,” the student can be heard saying. “Stop. Stop for real.”

Rico Torres, a former student who attended the school from ages 8 to 18, previously told NBC News that instructors hooked him up to electrodes 24 hours a day for 10 years.


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“The GED is a treatment of last resort, and its recipients are at risk of grievous bodily harm, or even death, without it,” JRC said in a statement, according to MassLive. “With the treatment, these residents can continue to participate in enriching experiences, enjoy visits with their families and, most importantly, live in safety and freedom from self-injurious and aggressive behaviors.”

The JRC Parents Association lauded the decision, saying ESDs are used as “life saving treatment of last resort.” 

“The JRC Parents Association is looking forward to allowing their loved ones to receive this life saving treatment without further governmental interference,” the statement said, according to MassLive. 

Reporting on JRC by CBS News in 2014:

 


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Published on Jul 08, 2021