FDA Bans Electrical Stimulation Devices for Self-Injurious or Aggressive Behavior

March 10, 2020

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration last week published a final rule to ban electrical stimulation devices (ESDs) used for self-injurious or aggressive behavior because they present an unreasonable and substantial risk of illness or injury that cannot be corrected or eliminated through new or updated device labeling.

ESDs administer electrical shocks through electrodes attached to the skin of individuals to immediately interrupt self-injurious or aggressive behavior or attempt to condition the individuals to stop engaging in such behavior. Evidence indicates a number of significant psychological and physical risks are associated with the use of these devices, including worsening of underlying symptoms, depression, anxiety, posttraumatic stress disorder, pain, burns, and tissue damage. In addition, many people who are exposed to these devices have intellectual or developmental disabilities that make it difficult to communicate their pain. Evidence of the device’s effectiveness is weak and evidence supporting the benefit-risk profiles of alternatives is strong.

The act of banning a device is rare and the circumstances under which the agency can take this action is stringent, but the FDA has the authority to take this action when necessary to protect the health of the public. The FDA has only banned two other medical devices since gaining the authority to do so.

Read the FDA's news release announcing this final rule.

ACL participated in discussions with the FDA about ESDs and the importance of humane treatments for people with disabilities.


Last modified on 06/01/2020


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