“No detrimental effects whatsoever.” That’s what Matthew Israel has to say about the shocks used as aversives. I somehow remain unconvinced. The Judge Rotenberg Center has now come under the scrutiny of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, who has called on the Obama administration to investigate the center.
Obviously, major electrical shocks can be quite harmful. The most serious physical damage occurs when current passes through organs, like the heart. The JRC device appears to be designed to keep the shocks local. At about 50 seconds into the video they apply an electric shock from one of the JRC’s devices to the Nightline commentator. The shock is applied to her arm, but watch her leg twitch. The effects aren’t exactly localized, are they? That is troublesome to me because we don’t know what is going on internally from the shock.
As to emotional long term side effects, who knows? Seriously, can Dr. Israel really make the claim of “no detrimental effects whatsoever”? Based on what evidence?
From a previous press release criticizing the JRC:
The Judge Rotenberg Center (JRC) in Canton is believed to be the only facility in the country that uses often painful electric shock therapy on disabled children in order to alter behavior. In 2007, the State launched a criminal investigation into an incident where a prank phone call to the school led to the repeated electric shocking of two individuals in the dead of night. One of them, a child, was shocked 29 times, the other was shocked 77 times – sometimes while restrained, causing burns so severe they needed to be treated at a hospital. That investigation is apparently ongoing. In October 2009, the JRC made headlines again when Director Matthew Israel was fined by the Massachusetts Division of Professional Licensure for allowing 14 unlicensed employees at the school to use the title “psychologist.”
See the Nightline report here.