Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on the day's biggest business stories

Subscribe to Axios Closer for insights into the day’s business news and trends and why they matter

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Stay on top of the latest market trends

Subscribe to Axios Markets for the latest market trends and economic insights. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with Axios Sports. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sign up for Axios NW Arkansas

Stay up-to-date on the most important and interesting stories affecting NW Arkansas, authored by local reporters

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

A teacher wears shock treatment transmitters during class at Judge Rotenberg Center in Canton. Credit: Rick Friedman/Corbis via Getty Images (faces blurred to protect the privacy of the students)

A Massachusetts school can continue using electric shock devices to enforce corrective behavior in students with intellectual disabilities, a federal court ruled this month.

Why it matters: Critics including the United Nations have described the controversial practice as "torture."

  • Judge Rotenberg Educational Center treats patients with a range of disabilities and uses the devices to correct self-harming or aggressive behavior in students with psychiatric, behavioral or emotional challenges.

State of play: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) implemented a ban of the practice in March 2020, warning that it can cause long-lasting trauma.

  • The ban was national, but the Judge Rotenberg Educational Center was the only school known to have used the device in recent years, the New York Times noted.
  • Evidence of the devices' efficacy is "weak," the FDA said. Delivering shocks results in "an unreasonable and substantial risk of illness or injury."
  • Critics say it also abuses people with disabilities. Shain Neumeier, a lawyer who has represented the center's former residents, told the Times that many are unable to give consent themselves.
    • "This approach involves a lot of dehumanization, an idea that you’re basically training a dog," they said. "Or you’re trying to get a person to do what you want, rather than follow their own goals and get their own needs met."
  • Former residents have spoken out about enduring burn marks, accidental shocks and other abuse.
    • "It’s not safe. It doesn’t feel safe," Jennifer Msumba, a student from 2002 to 2009, said in a 2014 testimony to the FDA. "I ended up having nightmares weekly, if not nightly."

How it works: Students wear a special fanny pack with two protruding wires that are attached to the arm or leg. A staff member with a remote-control device can then trigger quick shocks to the skin.

  • The center has used such devices for decades, according to the Times. Parents must request and consent to the practice. A local judge also has to approve it for use on specific students.
  • Some students' parents have defended the policy, arguing it put a stop to harmful behavior when nothing else could.
    • One parent told the Times that his son, who had been inducing vomiting, was "nearly dead" when he arrived for treatment at the facility.
  • The devices are currently approved for use on 55 people. All are adults, though some were first subjected to the treatment as children.

What they're saying: The judges ruled 2-1 last week that the federal ban interferes with doctors' ability to treat patients at the school.

  • "[T]he FDA lacks the statutory authority to ban a medical device for a particular use," the opinion stated, noting that the decision does not address the actual merits of the ban.
  • "With the treatment, these residents can continue to participate in enriching experiences, enjoy visits with their families and, most importantly, live in safety and freedom from self-injurious and aggressive behaviors," the school said in a statement following the ruling, per Reuters.
  • The FDA declined to comment, citing ongoing litigation.

Go deeper

Ina Fried, author of Login
Sep 22, 2021 - Technology

Microsoft debuts new Surface hardware

Photo: Microsoft

Microsoft unveiled updates to its Surface line, including laptops, convertible tablets and an improved versions of its Android-based dual screen Surface Duo.

Why it matters: The new devices come ahead of Windows 11's official launch on Oct. 5.

Stock buybacks boom as corporate cash piles grow

The Delta variant is keeping more companies cautious about how to invest the mountains of cash they have at their disposal. That hesitancy has led, in part, to corporate spending on stock buybacks outpacing capital expenditures this year. 

Why it matters: Companies hoarded cash and raised prices over the past year — leaving them with a lot of money and decisions about what to do with it.

1 hour ago - Health

Health policies at stake in Democrats' infrastructure bet

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Democrats are at a pivotal moment in their quest to expand health care coverage, slash the cost of prescription drugs and create a social structure that prioritizes people's health.

Driving the news: Democrats have a clear list of health care priorities they'll be fighting for this week. Among them is a measure to expand Medicare to cover dental, vision and hearing benefits.