Lawmakers Weigh Banning Of Skin Shock Therapy

The notion of using electricity to treat people with profound psychological problems is not new. It’s called electroconvulsive therapy, or ECT. The electric pulses are applied to the brain.

But what’s happening at the Judge Rotenberg Center in Canton, Massachusetts, is not ECT. Instead, the JRC applies shocks to the skin of children who are acting out, often violently — children with extreme developmental, behavioral and psychological problems.

Often, these problems that are so severe they can be a violent threat to themselves and to others. The shocks, supporters say, curb these otherwise uncontrollable impulses.

The JRC is the only known school in the country to use this type of aversion therapy, and some want that to end. Lawmakers at the State House are considering banning these types of skin shocks.

The JRC has a long and controversial history. It has been called morally reprehensible, even criminal by some. It has also been called a life-saver by others.


  • Dr. Nathan Blenkush, director of research, Judge Rotenberg Center
  • Matthew Engel, senior attorney, The Disability Law Center, North Hampton


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