Several U.S. senators are pressuring the Food and Drug Administration to follow through with a ban on devices used to administer electric shocks on people with developmental disabilities.

The FDA indicated in 2018 that it intended to finalize a 2016 proposal to end the use of what are known as electrical stimulation devices.

The devices use electrodes attached to the skin to deliver electric shocks in order to condition individuals not to engage in self-injurious or aggressive behaviors. They are only known to be used at one facility in the country — the Judge Rotenberg Educational Center in Canton, Mass., which serves children and adults with developmental disabilities as well as those with behavioral and emotional problems.

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Despite a plan to commit to the ban before the end of 2019, the FDA has yet to issue final regulations. Now a group of eight senators is calling on the agency to take “immediate action” to finalize the rule.

“The proposed rule would end a barbaric — and disproven — practice and prevent punishment using electric shock for self-injurious and aggressive behaviors,” the senators wrote in a letter this month to FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn. “This practice must be stopped without delay.”

The senators said they want an update from the FDA by Feb. 28 on progress toward finalizing the rule.

“It is unconscionable that in 2020, it is still legal to shock children and adults with disabilities as a method to control behavior. We have an obligation to protect children and adults with disabilities from archaic and inhumane forms of punishment — no more excuses, the FDA needs to finalize this rule immediately,” said Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., who helped spearhead the correspondence.

In addition to Murray, the letter is signed by Sens. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., Bob Casey, D-Pa., Tim Kaine, D-Va., Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., Doug Jones, D-Ala., Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Tina Smith, D-Minn.

FDA Spokesman James McKinney said the agency received the correspondence and will respond directly to the senators.

“FDA has been working to issue the final rule as closely as possible to the plan announced in the Fall 2019 Unified Agenda. Issuing this final rule remains a priority for FDA,” McKinney indicated.

Meanwhile, supporters of the Judge Rotenberg Educational Center said they will continue to fight to keep electrical stimulation devices available.

“It is unfortunate that individuals with little to no knowledge of our children or the issues they face are putting them in danger of losing the only safe and effective treatment available to them,” said Marie Washington, president of the JRC Family Association. “The only alternative truly offered to our children is to drug them into being incapacitated.”

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