Rotenberg Center and Shocked Autistic Student Reach Settlement
2012 Medical Malpractice Trial Report
McCollins v. Judge Rotenberg Center: 31 skin shocks to an 18 yr. old child with autism while in 4-point restraints resulting in PTSD
Norfolk Superior Court—The plaintiff was an 18-year-old autistic child who received 31 skin shocks, resulting in PTSD. The shocks were given while the plaintiff was strapped to a four-point restraint board for 7 hours.
In February 2001, the plaintiff was admitted to the Judge Rotenberg Center (JRC) with Autism, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and mental retardation. Initially, the plaintiff’s treatment plan only included mechanical restraint procedures. From 2001 to 2002, the plaintiff was restrained 28 times. In March 2002, the defendants added skin shocks to the treatment plan. The JRC is the only facility in the country that uses skin shock as punishment.
At 8:55 A.M. on 10/25/02, the plaintiff received an shock on the JRC bus for aggressive behavior. He then placed in mechanical restraints and escorted into his classroom. The rest of the events that day were captured on videotape.
When the restraints were removed, the plaintiff’s teacher instructed him to take off his jacket. When the plaintiff refused, he received shock. The plaintiff fell to the ground and tried to hide under his desk. JRC staff members dragged the plaintiff out and placed him back into restraints. He received 14 shocks between 8:55 A.M. and 10:04 A.M. Between shocks, the plaintiff was placed on a restraint board where the he continued to receive shocks for “tense ups” and screams.
From 8:55 A.M. to 3:24 P.M., the plaintiff received 31 electrical shocks to his torso, both legs and both arms. In addition, the plaintiff was strapped face-down for 7 hours without a restroom break or water. He was finally released from the board at 4:20 P.M., 40 minutes before JRC shift change.
For the next 3 days, the plaintiff was catatonic, refusing food and fluids. Despite this condition, the JRC did not transfer the plaintiff to a hospital for three days.
Upon arrival to the hospital, the plaintiff was still in a catatonic state with multiple abrasions on his face and body. He was diagnosed with PTSD. The plaintiff remained catatonic and hospitalized for the next five weeks. According to plaintiff’s expert, the events of October 2002 caused permanent brain damage.
The case was tried in Norfolk Superior Court. At trial, the defense contended that his mother consented to the treatment plan and that the Probate Court approved the treatment. The defense also challenged damages.
After a 3-week trial, the parties settled for a confidential amount during deliberations.
Lubin & Meyer attorney Benjamin Novotny represented the plaintiff in this lawsuit regarding the use of aversive shock therapy as a treatment for autism at the Judge Rotenberg Center.
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