Massachusetts bills on aversive shocks stalled by GOP maneuvering
The Massachusetts legislature is again bogged down over proposals that would seriously limit the use of contingent and painful electric shock at the Judge Rotenberg Center. The bills are S. 45 and S. 46. The former proposal would add a lot of new restrictions to the use of aversive behavioral interventions but would still permit them. As such, the proposal does not address the recent finding of the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture who found that the use of any such skin shock is torture and therefore prohibited.
Kyle Cheney reports on the latest developments today for the State House News Service and quotes Rep. Sanchez, whose nephew attends the Judge Rotenberg Center and who has been a major stumbling block to those who would try to prohibit the intervention entirely:
Sanchez wondered why proponents of Joyce’s bill haven’t expressed “the same level of fervor and passion” about doctors who prescribe psychotropic drugs to kids.
“This is personal for me. It’s very difficult,” he said. “Aren’t parents the best advocates for their children?”
Well, no, Representative Sanchez, they are not always the best advocates for their children. We’ve all seen too many cases of child abuse to think that parents are always good advocates for their children. And when parents are desperate to help their children, that doesn’t mean that the treatment that they are advocating for is effective or safe in both the short-term and long-term.
I have repeatedly suggested that there needs to be more attention paid to long-term assessment by independent third parties. Selective long-term follow-up reports are neither consistent with solid scientific practice nor persuasive. Do we know how many children may have been traumatized or psychologically harmed by the use of this intervention? No, we do not know.
Rep. Sanchez told the News Service that sufficient safeguards already exist and that any further bureaucracy could be a “death sentence” for kids who have been helped by the treatment, including his nephew.
“Parents have to go through due process. This is not mandated upon parents. Parents request this because of how difficult their individual circumstances are. These are the most difficult children anyone will ever have to work with relative to their conditions,” he said.
Again, I must respectfully but firmly disagree with Rep. Sanchez. Due process as it is used here does not involve an independent panel of genuine experts who review the child’s full records and determine whether the intervention is necessary and reasonably calculated to be of benefit. JRC seems to take the position that anyone who argues that the intervention isn’t necessary is biased against aversives, yet their own data suggest that in at least some cases, other alternatives to aversives — including non-medication approaches — were never explored or given adequate trials prior to recommending the contingent shock.