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 MurrayDemocrats demand Trump administration withdraw religious provider rule How to downsize the federal education role — without attracting attention Senate Dems blast Barr for 'clear violation' of duty in Stone case, urge him to resign MORE (D-Wash.), Bernie SandersBernie SandersBiden leads Sanders by single digits in South Carolina: poll Pro-Trump super PAC hits Biden with new Spanish-language ad in Nevada Biden will go after Bloomberg, Sanders at Las Vegas debate, aides say MORE (I-Vt.), Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyOvernight Defense: Dem senator met with Iranian foreign minister | Meeting draws criticism from right | Lawmakers push back at Pentagon funding for wall Democratic senator meets with Iranian foreign minister Lawmakers wary as US on cusp of initial deal with Taliban MORE (D-Conn.), Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseyDemocratic senators ask FDA to ban device used to shock disabled students Trump under pressure to renew last nuke treaty with Russia Celebrating and expanding upon five years of the ABLE  Act MORE Jr. (D-Pa.), Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineThe Hill's Morning Report — AG Barr, GOP senators try to rein Trump in Overnight Defense: Senate votes to rein in Trump war powers on Iran | Pentagon shifting .8B to border wall | US, Taliban negotiate seven-day 'reduction in violence' Democratic senators ask FDA to ban device used to shock disabled students MORE (D-Va.), Maggie HassanMargaret (Maggie) HassanDemocratic senators ask FDA to ban device used to shock disabled students State officials press Congress for more resources to fight cyberattacks Sanders says NH Democratic senators were wrong to back Trump's USMCA MORE (D-N.H.), Tina SmithTina Flint SmithDemocratic senators ask FDA to ban device used to shock disabled students Trump pick for Fed seat takes bipartisan fire Biden leads 2020 pack in congressional endorsements 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.