We have all heard the debate over shock therapy. Some believe in the therapy, while it seems that most regard it as inhumane. A core issue when it comes to shock therapy is consent. Should an individual with extremely low cognitive functioning be excluded from a possibly successful treatment because they cannot give their direct consent? Should we allow guardians to give consent for the patient to undergo electric stimulation therapy? A key issue in the debate over using SIBIS on mentally handicapped individuals with sever self-injurious behaviors is whether or not we need to determine if the individual has a high enough level of cognitive functioning to give their consent.
What Is SIBIS?
SIBIS stands for Self-Injurious Behavior Inhibiting System. A SIBIS apparatus is worn on the body and delivers an uncomfortable shock when a self-injurious behavior is detected. For example, the device can be worn in the form of a helmet or head band for a person who engages in head banging. The apparatus can also be worn other places on the body, such as the arm. The device has two components: one component consists of one or more sensor modules to detect any physical blows; the other component is, of course, that which delivers the electric stimulation.
Does SIBIS Work?
SIBIS was invented by Mooza and Leslie Grant, parents of a daughter who was autistic and engaged in severe self-injurious behaviors. Since SIBIS was invented many parents have decided to use it. One thing that must be understood is that SIBIS is only used in dire situations. Imagine being a parent and watching your child severely bang their head with their fist or against the wall as much as 3,000 times in one hour. The long term damage that can come from repeated blows to the head is extremely severe. And it is unpractical and unsafe to try to block every blow that the individual tries to make. Now imagine an apparatus, such as SIBIS, was available to your child and could reduce the number of blows in one hour from 3,000 to zero. Many parents who have watched the transformations with their child from before SIBIS to after SIBIS confirm that they have no objections to using SIBIS and that it has worked dramatically.
Why The Controversy?
Despite many success stories, people are still extremely hesitant towards SIBIS. Many individuals who could potentially benefit from SIBIS have extremely low cognitive functioning. These individuals may have extremely low verbal skills, perhaps none at all, and cannot communicate whether or not they want to use SIBIS. Using electric stimulation, even at a very low intensity, is considered very inhumane to many people. Because of this, a large part of our society has seriously frowned upon the use of SIBIS.
Which Is More Inhumane?
We are faced with a decision to make. Do we continue to use SIBIS even in situations where the patient has low cognitive functioning and cannot give his or her direct consent? Or do we withhold a treatment that could potentially stop self-injurious behavior and prevent the patient from creating further physical health problems?
To some people, it is more inhumane to not stop a person from severely hurting themselves even though there is a possible solution. We need to take the time to do the research and possibly read the success stories from some parents, or stories where SIBIS did not help from other parents. It is important that we inform ourselves on issues such as these so that we can take a stand and make a valid argument.
Warning: This video is a home documentary of a mother dealing with her autistic son. It is intense.
- Shock Therapy: Old Treatment, New Scrutiny (cbsnews.com)
- Shock Therapy is NOT a Treatment For Autism (beyondautismawareness.wordpress.com)
- Mother Sues Judge Rotenberg Center Over “Torture” Of Disabled Son (boston.cbslocal.com)
- Shock therapy makes comeback to treat depression (click2houston.com)
- Mother’s Knowledge Of Son’s Shock Therapy Treatments At Issue In Lawsuit (boston.cbslocal.com)