18-year-old Andre McCollins was shocked 31 times by the staff at the Judge Rotenberg Center in Massachusetts, and video footage showing his experience has been released to the public for the first time. McCollins' mother has brought a lawsuit against the Rotenberg Center for what she calls "torture" and "abuse."
The Judge Rotenberg Center is a private school for children with physical and social disabilities. McCollins was a student at the time and had been asked to remove his jacket by staff from the Center. When he did not respond, he was subdued by several staff, and then strapped to a table.
What followed was agonizing for people in the courtroom to watch. Counselors at the Center administered 31 shocks over the next several hours, as McCollins screamed for help. Throughout the trial, the Center asked that the video footage of the incident not be released to the public, but yesterday the judge overseeing the trial ruled against them, and Fox News released the video.
"I never signed up for him to be tortured, terrorized, and abused," McCollins' mother said on the stand yesterday. "I had no idea— no idea— that they tortured the children in the school."
After the electro-shock, McCollins was left in a catatonic state, a stress-induced coma, according to authorities.
"I couldn't turn Andre's head to the left or to the right. He was just staring straight," McCollins' mother said. "I took my hands and went like this (waving her hand in front of his face). He didn't blink."
"He was essentially in what we would call a catatonic condition," explained Dr. Marc Whaley. "That happens with people who 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," Whaley added.
McCollins' mother arrived to visit her son, found him in that state, and immediately took him to a children's hospital, where he received treatment for acute stress. Now that the trial is receiving public attention, and the video of treatment is going viral, many are wondering if electro-shock therapy is a civil, effective form of treatment.
Literature from the Center states that the electric shocks "feel like a hard pinch, [have] been extensively validated in the scientific literature… [are] extremely effective, and [have] no significant adverse side effects."
"These are dramatic tapes," argued attorney Edward Hinchey, who represents the Center staff. "But the treatment plan at the Rotenberg Center, the treatment plan that Andre had in place on Oct. 25, was followed," he explained.
Yet, Dr. John Grohol, psychiatrist and founder of Psych Central, has a problem with this argument.
"In other words," he wrote on his website PsychCentral.com, "even if this is incredibly disturbing and seemingly wrong, it's okay because it's just a part of the teen's 'treatment plan.'"
"While I have no doubt that the Judge Rotenberg Center is a well-meaning treatment center for troubled youth staffed by professionals, its methods are better suited for a different era," Grohol concluded.
To watch footage of Andre's ordeal click below. (WARNING: Extremely graphic content below.)