The Food and Drug Administration has bowed to pressure and banned electric shock therapy on mentally disabled patients, the Associated Press reports. The devices have been used to curb aggression and stop self-harming behavior, but have been called unethical by disability groups and mental health experts.
Electric shock treatment was used for many years, but these days it is considered to be outdated and ineffectual. Psychiatric experts prefer behavior modification, drugs, and other treatments that are considered to be more reliable and are less likely to harm the patient.
“Through advancements in medical science, there are now more treatment options available to reduce or stop self-injurious or aggressive behavior,” said Dr. William Maisel, a director in the FDA’s device center, in a statement.
The announcement was met with opposition by administrators at the Judge Rotenberg Educational Center of Canton, Massachusetts. It’s the only US institution that has continued to use electric shock devices over the last few years.
Rotenberg school officials say they use electric shock as a “last resort” to prevent dangerous behavior like attacking teachers and classmates. A Rotenberg parents association said in a statement that electric shock allows patients to live “a productive life” and that there is “simply no alternative.”
The FDA and psychiatric experts disagree, saying that shock therapy can actually worsen dangerous behavior, can cause depression and anxiety, and can give patients burns and tissue damage.
According to the Associated Press, the Food and Drug Administration has only banned two other medical devices over the last 40 years: powdered surgical gloves that can cause allergic reactions, and hair implants that can cause infections.