A court in Boston is hearing how an autistic teenage boy was tortured at the Judge Rotenberg Center in Canton, Massachusetts for failing to remove his coat.
Andre McCollins is suing Rotenberg and three of its staff for tying him down and giving him 31 electric shocks over a seven hour period in 2002. Video footage shows the teachers laughing at the then 18 year old boy who was left in a three-day coma. Doctors have testified that the torture could have cost him his life.
‘He was essentially in what we would call a catatonic condition. That means a condition that happens with people that are acutely psychotically disturbed and they let him stay in the facility basically sitting still, not eating, refusing fluids for the most part, for the next few days. They’re lucky he didn’t die,’ expert witness Dr Marc Whaley said. ‘This violated — in a gross fashion — accepted standards of care,’
The school has been criticized in the past for its adherence to outdated electroshock methods and still provides literature claiming that the electric shocks are nothing to be concerned about. While the school claims that the treatment is effective with no adverse side effects, but that claim is looking dubious in light of the video evidence clearing showing adverse side effects and the boy crying out and pleading with his captors. In 2010 the UN labeled the technique as ‘torture’ and appealed to the Obama Administration to end its practice.
Dr Whaley went on to say that McCollins had been permanently damaged by the experience and has no immediate prospect of independent functioning. He is institutionalized by the state and heavily medicated.
State Senate President Therese Murray has called for action to ban the facility from continuing to practice shock therapy; describing the treatment as inhumane.
Testifying yesterday his tearful mother Cheryl, who sent him to the private school for disabled children said: ‘I never signed up for him to be tortured, terrorised, and abused. I had no idea—no idea—that they tortured the children in the school.
‘I couldn’t turn Andre’s head to the left or to the right. He was just staring straight. I took my hands and went like this (waves hand in front of her face), he didn’t blink.’