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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 MurrayHawley pens op-ed to defend decision to object to electoral votes amid pushback Demolition at the Labor Department, too Hawley, Cruz face rising anger, possible censure MORE (D-Wash.), Bernie SandersBernie SandersTim Ryan says he's 'looking seriously' at running for Portman's Senate seat Bernie Sanders has been most-followed member of Congress on social media for six years This week: Senate stuck in limbo MORE (I-Vt.), Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyThe Hill's Morning Report - Biden: Focus on vaccine, virus, travel Tensions running high after gun incident near House floor Democrats float 14th Amendment to bar Trump from office MORE (D-Conn.), Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseyDemocrats looking to speed through Senate impeachment trial Capitol Police officer hailed as hero for drawing rioters away from Senate chamber Scranton dedicates 'Joe Biden Way' to honor president-elect MORE Jr. (D-Pa.), Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineHawley files ethics counter-complaint against seven Democratic senators Lawmakers move to oust extremists from military Trump impeachment trial to begin week of Feb. 8 MORE (D-Va.), Maggie HassanMargaret (Maggie) HassanModerates vow to 'be a force' under Biden Bipartisan Senate gang to talk with Biden aide on coronavirus relief Bipartisan group of senators: The election is over MORE (D-N.H.), Tina SmithTina Flint SmithHawley files ethics counter-complaint against seven Democratic senators Senate Democrats file ethics complaint against Hawley, Cruz over Capitol attack Senate majority battle snags Biden Cabinet hopefuls 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.