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Shocking Students May Not Be OK With FDA

Massachusetts school alone in using controversial practice
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 14, 2014 2:44 PM CDT
Shocking Students May Not Be OK With FDA
In this Aug. 13, 2014, photo, a female student wearing a shocking device on her leg, lines up with classmates after lunch at the Judge Rotenberg Educational Center in Canton, Mass.    (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

(Newser) – On second thought, the FDA isn't so sure that painful electric shocks are a good way to keep unruly autistic people in line. For years the Judge Rotenberg Educational Center, a Massachusetts school for people with intellectual disabilities, has been outfitting students prone to aggressive behavior or self harm with devices that can deliver a quick, painful jolt of electricity to their skin, the AP reports. The FDA approved the treatment back in 1994, and said in 2000 that the school didn't need its approval to switch to a new version that was 2.5 times stronger. But now it's revisiting the issue, thanks to complaints from disability groups.

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Right now 55 of the center's 235 patients are outfitted with shock devices, most of them adults in their 30s. One patient described the shocks as feeling like a thousand bee stings. "I ended up having nightmares," another 38-year-old patient testified at the FDA's hearing, adding that the device left burn marks and was prone to misfires. That patient's family is suing the school, as is that of another student who can be seen in a 2002 video screaming, "Help me. No," while being shocked, despite being tied to a restraining board. One UN report has denounced the practice as torture. But some parents swear by the treatment, saying it is all that has worked for their children. "Do not take away what is saving his life," the mother of one 21-year-old begged the FDA. (Read more FDA stories.)

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