Every surgical, dental or medical treatment involves discomfort, risks or costs on the one hand, and expected benefits on the other. For most persons a reasonable approach is to weigh the discomfort/risks/costs against the potential benefits in deciding whether to undergo or approve the treatment.There's a clear difference between the JRC's "treatment" and surgical, dental or medical treatment. First of all, infliction of pain is not a means to an end in any of the analogies mentioned. Pain is simply a side-effect of the treatment. Furthermore, in each of these cases, measures are taken to reduce discomfort. That's what anasthesia is for! So the analogy is poor.
I'm leaving aside whether the behaviors "treated" are true medical conditions in all cases, and whether the "treatment" itself is medical.
In the case of certain treatments, however, there are some persons who, for religious or philosophical reasons, are unwilling to weigh the negative aspects of those treatments against the potential benefits. These persons view the treatment in question as Wrong with a capital “W”, regardless of the potential benefits the treatment might produce. For example, Christian Scientists oppose the use of medical interventions, and Scientologists oppose the use of psychiatric drugs, regardless of what potential benefits may ensue.What is this irrelevant nonsense? I'm picturing an immate of the JRC objecting to being tortured for "philosophical reasons." Is he serious?
Opponents of behavior modification treatment that involves aversives(sometimes referred to as “aversive therapy”) are similarly unwilling to weigh the discomfort, risks or costs associated with aversives against the potential benefits—even when those benefits could be lifesaving, life-improving or life-extending. Such persons prefer to brand aversives as “Wrong,” refusing to recognize them as part of a relatively new behavior modification treatment procedure2, and many of them sometimes do whatever they can to prevent anyone else from using them. It is clear from Ms. Gonnerman’s article that she is one of those persons.Here I'm going to have to say that Mr. Israel is using "aversives" as a euphemism for torture. At a different time we can discuss "aversives" as they are used in behavior modification. For example, Lovaas recommends slapping a child on the rear and yelling "No!" Many of us find this in itself objectionable, but I don't think this is what we're talking about right now.
Torture is defined as "any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity" (Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, 1987).
Allowing the Judge Rotenberg Center to exist would appear to be in violation of international law under this definition. If the JRC immates were Al-Qaeda terrorists instead of the developmentally disabled, I'm sure Amnesty International would be on the case sooner than you could say "Abu Ghraib."
Ms. Gonnerman is so intent on indicting the Judge Rotenberg Center (“JRC”), the only special needs school in the country that offers this form of therapy, that she violates the normal journalistic ethics of presenting both sides of a controversial issue. Out of a total of 265 column inches that her article occupies, only 15 inches (6% percent of the article) present any of the benefits of JRC’s treatment. Even those few accounts of parents (characterized as “desperate parents”) or students who speak positively about JRC are presented with snide comments, disparaged by unfavorable observations or reported in the least favorable light possible.Here Mr. Israel is making the common mistake of confusing journalistic balance with "equal time." This is actually a big problem in science reporting, where fringe ideas are often portrayed as being on equal footing with accepted and tested theories (source).