A mother in Massachusetts has settled her lawsuit against a treatment facility that, she alleged, subjected her son to shock treatments that constituted torture. Video of the procedure became widely available on the internet after the judge unsealed it and news of the case spread. Although the mother is reportedly satisfied with the settlement, she has also continued a public campaign to put pressure on the center to stop its use of the shock treatments allegedly used on her son.
Andre McCollins was born with serious disabilities, and as he grew older he experienced difficult behavioral and mental issues. In 2002 his mother, Cheryl McCollins, sent him to the Judge Rotenberg Center (JRC) in Canton, Massachusetts when he was eighteen years old. While Andre was a patient at the JRC, staff subjected him to what is known as “aversive therapy.” The JRC reportedly says that this is used for patients with acute behavioral problems and actions like cutting or other self-mutilation. It is apparently the only facility in the U.S. that uses this treatment. The treatment consists of administering an electric shock to a small area of skin for a few seconds. The Center claims that it obtains permission from both a patient’s parents and a judge before administering the treatment.
The video that Cheryl McCollins obtained, however, shows her son strapped to a table face-down, restrained by staffers, while he screams for help. She claimed that staffers did this as punishment because Andre removed his coat during a class. In the video, Andre’s body goes stiff, then begins to shake when the shocks are administered. On the day the video was recorded, he was reportedly shocked thirty-one times. Several psychologists employed by the JRC were allegedly present for the treatment. Cheryl McCollins reportedly found her son in a “catatonic state” during a visit three days later. She took him to a hospital in Boston, where doctors said he was having an “acute stress response” brought on by the shocks, and that the shocks could have risked his life.