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Letters to the Editor

January 08, 2024 | The Philadelphia Inquirer online article

Stop allowing torture

In 2010, the United Nations declared that applying painful electric shock devices to people with disabilities is torture. The Judge Rotenberg Center (JRC) in Massachusetts continues this barbaric practice because it claims it is permitted in the United States.

Over the last decade, advocates have suggested congressional leadership pressure to ban this insidious form of “behavior modification.” During the Trump administration, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb announced regarding electric shock devices: “We believe these products present an unreasonable and substantial risk to public health that cannot be corrected or eliminated through changes to the labeling. The FDA takes the act of banning a device only on rare occasions when it is necessary to protect public health.”

In March 2020, disability advocates celebrated as the FDA issued a final rule to ban shocking people with disabilities. The JRC filed a lawsuit which resulted in an appeals court overturning the ruling in July 2021 based on a technicality. The court ruled the FDA did not have the authority to ban the device.

Last December, Congress intervened and gave the FDA the clear authority to ban the devices as part of an omnibus appropriations bill. The bill was signed by President Joe Biden on Dec. 29, 2022.

As we approach the one-year anniversary, the FDA has yet to act on the regulation and reissue the ban. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra has been noticeably silent on the issue.

What are they waiting for? Does the current administration and FDA Commissioner Robert Califf support electric torture? It is time for the FDA to issue this ban. People with disabilities should be able to live without the fear of being painfully shocked into submission.

Robert Stack, president and CEO, Community Options Inc., Philadelphia

Letters to the Editor The Philadelphia Inquirer
Letters to the Editor The Philadelphia Inquirer