Disability Rights

Today I turned on the television to find Anderson Cooper getting in the middle of a heated argument with the Judge Rotenberg Center’s lawyer. The center is a special needs facility in Massachusetts recently under investigation for the use of shock treatments on autistic children. The Guardian reports that the
“UN’s special rapporteur [Juan Mendez] on torture has made a formal approach to the US government” ,”plans to contact the US state department and has the option of reporting the matter to the UN human rights council.”

Mendez stated that the application of electric shock to one’s body could be perceived as inflicting pain and suffering “tantamount to torture in violation of international law.”

The Guardian goes on to report that “The Judge Rotenberg Center in Canton, Massachusetts, is believed to be the only institution in the world in which disabled and disturbed children are subjected to electric shocks to in a system known called “aversive therapy”.

The shocks are generated by a device known as a GED which children are made to carry 24 hours a day in backpacks or around their waist.

About half of the school’s students carry the generators that are triggered by care assistants using remote-controlled zappers, which then send a electric charge to skin pads on the children’s arms and legs.”

The Guardian is one of very few media organisations that have witnessed the school in operation.

The spotlight that the UN rapporteur is putting on the school is given added poignancy by the fact that Mendez was himself subjected to torture by electric shock at the hands of the Buenos Aires police in 1975.

He was abused with electric prods.”

In short, this is no “bee sting”, as JRC claimed on AC 360. Children also recieve these “punishments” for disobeying on any level, however minor, such as standing when told not to, or tearing paper cups. Quotes like this one followed:

“It’s the worst kind of pain, like a third degree burn…They say it’s like a bee sting but they lie.”

What’s next? Waterboarding anorexics?

Anderson kept hammering the case of  Andre McCollins, a former student and victim of 30 electric shocks for 7 hours, whose family sued the Rotenberg Center for malpractice.  The recently surfaced video of McCollins receiving the treatment has caused this new public and government push to shut down the school, which has been on the UN’s radar before.  Lawyer’s response? “Is it humane to sedate a child and have him be catatonic most of the time?” Anderson didn’t have a response to that, but his other guest, Dr.  Louis Krauss of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, kept emphasizing that doping up patients is not the primary job of a psychiatrist, and that no peer-reviewed research or literature has been published on the subject of “averse” treatment. The lawyer philandered on, claiming that yes, schools in other countries use this treatment too (yeah, sure, such as in Cambodia during the reign of the Khmer Rouge maybe) and there is literature on shock treatment….what kind of literature, when it was published, we don’t know. He went on to make excuses like the invalidity of the investigation, and the failure of the investigators to seek approval. The interesting thing, however, is that some parents praise the school for their ability to “cure” their child so that they don’t need medication. I’m not sure what their definition of “cure” or “normal” is, but maybe these kids don’t need to be the ones suffering ordeals that violate the Geneva Convention in order to fit into society. Maybe society should adapt more special policies and programs for them.

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