I used to work at a school for children and adults with severe disabilities, a school where painful electric shocks are considered treatment. That experience haunts me every day of my life. Now I’m taking action to make sure the FDA bans the use of electric shock on people with disabilities.
In 2002, an autistic student named Andre McCollins at the Judge Rotenberg Center (JRC), the school where I worked, was strapped down and given electric shocks for hours, leaving him with burns and permanent brain damage. All because Andre refused to take off his jacket.
When I first started working at the JRC, I thought I was helping these severely disabled people, but it quickly became clear that we were torturing them. I was told that the machines, which deliver shocks stronger than a stun gun, were FDA approved. I was lied to. Now I’m doing something about it.
The devices used at the JRC are not electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). These are machines that students wear at all times and deliver shocks administered by JRC whenever they feel a student has done something wrong. I had to shock students for behaviors like closing their eyes or tearing a paper cup. It made me sick.
The JRC has a long documented history of abuse. The United Nations has investigated the school and called their practices “torture.” The founder of the JRC, Dr. Matthew Israel, resigned after being charged with misleading a grand jury by destroying video footage of students being shocked.
It’s hard to believe this could be happening in the United States. Treating animals like this would be illegal, but we don’t have the same protections for the most vulnerable people in our society.
The FDA is holding a hearing next week where I plan to bring your signatures to show the massive amount of support for banning the JRC’s use of these machines. The FDA has taken action in response to Change.org petitions before. I know we can convince them to protect people with disabilities from electric shocks that amount to torture.
Berry Creek, CA
P.S. Video of Andre McCollins’ horrific ordeal is on my petition. It took 10 years to get it released to the public. It’s hard to watch, but it shows just how painful these machines are.