FDA Considers Banning Electric Shock for Behavioral Conditioning


The FDA has released a review of electrical stimulation devices used for behavioral therapy. “The FDA has grown concerned that serious risks of using these devices may outweigh the benefits for patients with limited intellectual ability or developmental disabilities,” said an FDA spokeswoman. A statement from the Judge Rotenberg Center in Canton, MA, the only facility currently using the devices, replies that “Without the treatment program at JRC, these children and adults would be condemned to lives of pain by self-inflicted mutilation, psychotropic drugs, isolation, restraint and institutionalization – or even death.”

Electrical Stimulation Devices for Aversive Conditioning (FDA Executive Summary)

See also:
FDA reconsiders behavior-modifying “shock devices” (CBS News)
FDA Considering Banning Shock Therapy (HNGN)


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Kermit Cole
Kermit Cole, MFT, founding editor of Mad in America, works in Santa Fe, New Mexico as a couples and family therapist. Inspired by Open Dialogue, he works as part of a team and consults with couples and families that have members identified as patients. His work in residential treatment — largely with severely traumatized and/or "psychotic" clients — led to an appreciation of the power and beauty of systemic philosophy and practice, as the alternative to the prevailing focus on individual pathology. A former film-maker, he has undergraduate and master's degrees in psychology from Harvard University, as well as an MFT degree from the Council for Relationships in Philadelphia. He is a doctoral candidate with the Taos Institute and the Free University of Brussels. You can reach him at [email protected].


  1. Divide and conquer. The only good thing about the Rottenberg case is that the legal briefs make references to the objective of getting hundreds of kids off psychotropic medications. This adds to the information circulating in the legal community about the harm to children of being on long term psychotropic medications. When my beautiful daughter was in a catatonic state once, the psychiatrist made the case for ECT, as an alternative that was worth pursuing, calling her meds ‘toxic’ Although he made the comment under his breath and he would probably deny saying on record anything that contradicted the party line about her meds, or that they may have contributed to her catatonia, the more we can get professional treatment providers to state on record that neuroleptics are toxic and make people chronically ill, the stronger the movement to demand safe, humane alternatives will become. The shock used at this facility is an abomination but the glimmer of hope is that it exposes even more how desperate professional treatment providers have become in treating ‘hopeless’ cases where behavior has become a real issue the more we know about the harm that medications can do to children

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    • Hi Madmom,

      I appreciate your spirited dedication and advocacy regarding the dangers of psych medications, and am moved by your fierce advocacy for your daughter.

      At the same time, as someone who has spent many years advocating for an end to the horrors of the practices of the Judge Rotenberg Center, I don’t think there are ANY good things coming out of the issue. I don’t believe that the fact that JRC is in favor of eliminating psychotropic meds is, in itself, a good sign. Maybe I’m just being cranky, but I think there should be some separation from the JRC issue and more large-scale (but extremely valid) protests of psych meds. The place is an abomination.

      Best to you!

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    • I’m afraid you’re too optimistic… Btw, I’d recommend everyone who has to deal with psychiatrists to carry around a small recording device in their pocket when talking to them. I wish I had that with me at the time, they wouldn’t get away from responsibility by fixing their documentation with straight lies.

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  2. As a boarding school survivor myself, I can’t even imagine the insane level of combined hatred and helplessness I would feel if someone shocked me with one of those things and I could not get at them and take revenge. I likely would be able to think of nothing else 24/7 365.

    Also does anyone else get a eerie feeling and sense almost presence of evil when looking at photos of the inside of that place ? I think suffering leaves stains of sorts on a place.


    Combined with a creepy factor like Michel Jacksons Neverland Ranch


    I am off this thread, JRC is creeeepy evil … think about something else now time.

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      • Well, I’d say what a person with this combination of preferences is called but I’m afraid I’ll get censored again ;P.
        That being said, I totally agree. Not every one of them is of course like that but there is no doubt there is a significant enrichment…

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        • We can debate drugs vs shocks vs alterntives for a thousand years and it doesn’t matter, what they did to that kid in the “shock video” was as sick as sick gets.

          They should all be in prison getting there own “medicine” tied down and shocked daily till they are dead as a warning to the next mad scientist sadist that puts on a show like that.

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  3. Aversive conditioning? Seriously? How about calling it what it really is: fear conditioning. Mild electroshock is used in rodent research as a classic paradigm for fear. You’re basically scaring the poor kids with painful shocks. Disgusting…

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  4. Btw, FDA CONSIDERS banning it? Are they f***ing insane? The people who were doing it should all be in prison active immediately. It’s not therapy, it’s torture and physical and psychological abuse. What kind of world are we living in?!? I feel really sickened now and I thought there are few things that can still make me that angry. And the parents of these kids? What the f**k are they thinking? If I had someone strap electrodes over my kid body and shock them for good behaviour I’d … (self censorship here). Affin’ insane.

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