FDA Reviewing Use Of Shock Devices For Behavior Modification

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a report recently regarding the use of electrical stimulation devices for aversive conditioning. FDA is considering issuing a ban on electrical stimulation devices (ESDs) for aversive conditioning that are intended to deliver a noxious electrical stimulus to patients exhibiting self-injurious behavior (SIB) and aggressive behavior.  Currently, the Judge Rotenberg Center in Canton, Massachusetts, appears to be the only facility in the nation still using ESD’s.

Examples of the diagnoses associated with these ESD included various levels of mental retardation, severe behavior disorder, autism, pervasive developmental disorder, seizure disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and a variety of medical disorders (e.g., Angelman’s syndrome). The FDA report indicates that as of February 8, 2013, 86 students at the school were eligible to receive skin shocks for exhibiting undesired behaviors.

The FDA approved the use of these techniques at the Rotenberg Center in the 1990’s to treat individuals exhibiting self-injurious behavior that caused severe damage to the patient.  Disability advocates, however, have said that this treatment is inhumane, with results including burns, scars and anxiety.  A federal advisory panel will make recommendations to the FDA, but the FDA will make the ultimate decision to ban the use of these devices.

Please see the FDA summary for the complete 126-page report