Democratic senators ask FDA to ban device used to shock disabled students

Democratic senators ask FDA to ban device used to shock disabled students
© Greg Nash

Eight Democratic senators asked the FDA in a signed letter to ban the use of a device, available exclusively in Massachusetts, used to administer electric shocks to disabled students.

The letter, dated Monday, called on the agency to finalize a rule banning the devices after issuing a proposed rule nearly four years ago in April 2016.

The FDA announced in 2018 that it intended to issue a final rule by December 2019, with then-Commissioner Scott Gottlieb saying “we believe these products present an unreasonable and substantial risk to public health that cannot be corrected or eliminated through changes to the labeling.” However, the agency missed the deadline, which the senators called “unacceptable.”

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Signers of the letter include Sens. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurraySenate Democrats propose ,000 hazard-pay plan for essential workers Trump administration issues guidance scaling back paid leave requirement for small business employees Senate coronavirus stimulus talks spill into Saturday MORE (D-Wash.), Bernie SandersBernie SandersDrugmaker caps insulin costs at to help diabetes patients during pandemic The Hill's Campaign Report: Wisconsin votes despite coronavirus pandemic Sen. Brown endorses Biden for president MORE (I-Vt.), Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyCoronavirus watch: Where the virus is spiking across the country New Jersey governor closing parks, forests Democrats seize on Trump's firing of intelligence community watchdog MORE (D-Conn.), Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseySenate Democrats propose ,000 hazard-pay plan for essential workers Democrats ask EPA, Interior to pause rulemaking amid coronavirus Democratic senators call on domestic airlines to issue cash refunds for travelers MORE Jr. (D-Pa.), Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineDemocratic senator rips Navy head's 'completely inappropriate' speech on ousted carrier captain Biden's pick for vice president doesn't matter much Students with disabilities could lose with COVID-19 stimulus package MORE (D-Va.), Maggie HassanMargaret (Maggie) HassanDemocrats urge administration to automatically issue coronavirus checks to more people Mnuchin says Social Security recipients will automatically get coronavirus checks Lawmakers press IRS to get coronavirus checks to seniors MORE (D-N.H.), Tina SmithTina Flint SmithDemocrats call for pollution reduction requirements in any aid for airlines, cruises Democratic Senators introduce bill to provide free coronavirus testing Democratic senators ask prison operators for answers on coronavirus plans MORE (D-Minn.) and Doug Jones (D-Ala.).

“That ESDs [electric shock devices] continue to be used on children and adults with disabilities as punishment is unacceptable. In one case, brought to light in an expose, a young man was shocked 31 times, ending up in a hospital due to the trauma and physical effects,” the senators assert.

“This practice must be stopped without delay. We urge you to finalize the proposed rule and take immediate action to ban the electric shock of people with disabilities.”

Murray also commented on the practice of using the device independently. 

“It is unconscionable that in 2020, it is still legal to shock children and adults with disabilities as a method to control behavior. We have an obligation to protect children and adults with disabilities from archaic and inhumane forms of punishment — no more excuses, the FDA needs to finalize this rule immediately,” Murray said in a statement.  

The device in question is used in the Judge Rotenberg Education Center in Canton, Mass.

Officials have argued the devices are necessary to prevent self-injuring behavior, and Marie Washington, president of the Judge Rotenberg Center Family Association, accused critics of practice of putting students “in danger of losing the only safe and effective treatment available to them," according to WGBH.