Supreme Judicial Court, Massachusetts allowed using electrotherapy as a part of treatments at the Judge Rotenberg Educational Center, in a Thursday hearing. The case was upheld back in 2018 with the state not being in favor of using electric shock therapies on patients.
The Rotenberg Center works for educating and treating the patients, where electric therapy is used for treating the disabled patients against their self-harming and destructive behaviors. As for now, it’s the only working body which the authorities have sanctioned legal permission to undertake electric shock therapy in the country.
The case was started back in 1985 with a ban on shock therapies, opposed by the families of clients, that resulted to continued practices under a consent decree.
There are around 300 disabled people, and around half of them receive shock therapy. Over the years, the JRC had tried to abandon the shock practices, but the families of the patients have supported this idea, having no other option to prevent their loved ones from hurting themselves.
Michael Flammia (Lawyer, JRC) said, “The ruling ensures that the lifesaving, court approved electrical stimulation device treatment remains available to those for whom all other treatment options have been tried and failed.”
While JRC was advised by State to flip the court’s decision back in 2016 saying, “This case thus involves a heart-wrenching issue; continue to protect a controversial practice that has widely been criticized or pave the way for its prohibition at the risk of subjecting these vulnerable patients to a life of sedation and restraint, or extreme self-injury,” while JRC declined to do so.
Executive Director – The Arc of Massachusetts, Leo Sarkissian expressed his opposition to the Thursday decision saying, “The persons treated in JRC are not substantially different or in any way different from the persons treated at other places across the state, across the country. People will argue that persons have these difficult behaviors, but those can be addressed through a combination of medical procedures, positive behavioral solutions, as well as other kinds of reinforcement.”
While there is a mixed reaction about the court’s decision for allowing use of electric shock therapy, the attorney General – Campbell, shared her disappointment saying, “I’m disappointed by today’s ruling and I stand ready to work with the Legislature and the Governor to take action to end this practice.”
She also appealed the Food and Drug Administration to work on imposing a ban on shock therapy equipment, where one of the administration’s assistants followed up sharing the FDA is considering so in the following December.