Skin shocks used at Mass. school draw FDA look

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CANTON, Mass. (AP) — The Food and Drug Administration is considering whether to ban electrical skin shocks as treatment for people with developmental or intellectual disabilities.

It's a rare move by the FDA, following years of complaints from disability rights' groups and even a U.N. report that the shocks are tantamount to torture.

Self-injury is one of the most difficult behaviors associated with conditions such as autism. The Judge Rotenberg Educational Center in Canton, Massachusetts, is the only place in the U.S. known to use skin shocks as aversive conditioning for aggressive patients who may hurt themselves.

FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg says shock therapy has raised a lot of questions. She says, "We really wanted to take a much more focused and rigorous look at it." Hamburg says, "There's a lot of concern about the downside of this approach and the harm and the risk to the patients receiving it."

Rotenberg must first get a court's approval before administering skin shocks to a student. Some patients compare the shocks to a hard pinch or bee sting. Others say it's far more painful.

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