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Nightline Tonight: Psychiatric Torture or Treatment?

Posted Jun 30 2010 12:13pm

My friends at passed along an important news release to me about tonight’s Nightline show. Given my late brother’s connection with Nightline (Leroy served as Executive Producer for many years), I am more than happy to do so. 

The issue under discussion is the use of restraint and electric shock on children and adults with severe disabilities. Back in the 60s, UCLA’s Ivar Lovaas came under considerable fire for suggesting electric shock used in operant condition to stop self-injurious behavior. Dr. Matthew Israel’s rebuttal to the MDRI’s concerns on behalf of the Judge Rotenberg Center, linked below, presents a similar view.

As the parent of a daughter with autism, this is a very painful topic, as I can’t imagine allowing anyone to hurt my child. In 2010, we have to find better ways of managing problem behavior. At the same time, I have not had to face the challenges of the parents and families served by the JRC.

You can read the Judge Rotenberg rebuttal to the MDRI here.

Washington, DC – June 30, 2010 – Mental Disability Rights 
International’s (MDRI) latest report and “urgent appeal” to the United 
Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, to demand the United States 
government end the torture of people with disabilities immediately, 
will be the topic of tonight’s ABC Nightline.

Torture not Treatment: Electric Shock and Long-Term Restraint in the 
United States on Children and Adults with Disabilities at the Judge 
Rotenberg Center (JRC), documents the use of electric shocks on the 
legs, arms, torsos and soles of feet of children and adults with 
disabilities – for weeks, months and sometimes years. JRC uses 
punishments as treatment and US advocates have been trying for decades 
to close the school and end these practices.

Nightline host, Cynthia McFadden, interviewed MDRI Executive Director 
Eric Rosenthal, JD and the United Nations Special Rapporteur on 
Torture, Manfred Nowak for the piece.

Laurie Ahern, President of MDRI and author of the report, states, “The 
cruelty perpetrated against children and adults at JRC is 
psychological and physical abuse, couched in the name of ‘treatment.’ 
The severe pain and suffering leveled against residents there violates 
the United Nations Convention against Torture.”

MDRI is an international human rights organization dedicated to the 
rights protection and full participation in society of people with 
disabilities worldwide.

ABC Nightline airs at 11:30 pm EST, following your local news. Be sure 
and check your local listings.

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