DEDHAM (CBS) – Attorneys for a special needs school in Canton began cross-examination Thursday of an expert witness in a lawsuit over shock therapy treatments.

Cheryl McCollins alleges The Judge Rotenberg Center and three psychologists were negligent in caring for her son Andre, who born with acute mental and behavioral difficulties.

She claims her son was “tortured” during shock therapy at the center back in 2002.

On the stand Thursday in Dedham Superior Court, the center’s attorneys questioned Dr. Marc Whaley, an expert witness for McCollins, who testified Wednesday that doctors watched as Andre was shocked over and over, crying out for help.

Attorneys for the JRC questioned Whaley’s knowledge of Andre’s condition.

Under cross examination, Whaley testified that Andre’s aggressive and disruptive behaviors started well before he arrived at the JRC, and continue today.

Whaley told the jury that Andre is “a very disturbed child,” diagnosed with mild mental retardation. He has an IQ of 50.

The JRC has said the shock treatment, which they call aversive therapy, is used on about 40-percent of their patients. They claim parents seek them out for treatment, when all other attempts including medication, fail.

Cheryl McCollins said she wasn’t fully informed of the therapy.

Defense attorneys are also working to show the jury that Andre’s mother knew exactly what was going on at the center.

Whaley agreed with the questioning that Andre’s mother applied for Andre to go to the JRC, and visited it herself before he was accepted to the program.

He also testified that Andre underwent the aversive shock therapies for 6 months, from March to October 2002. His mother didn’t use it when he was at home during the time, and the defense suggested that this could be disruptive to the effectiveness of the treatment.

The trial is expected to last two weeks. Then the jury will decide whether the Rotenberg Center and its doctors were negligent and if so whether that negligence harmed Andre.

There have been other cases against the center in the past, but they were settled out of court.

Cheryl McCollins did not want to settle because she believes the case needed to be made public.

Divide On Beacon Hill

Treatment vs. Torture:  There is a divide between the two most powerful legislators in the state over the controversial center in Canton that uses shock therapy to treat severely disabled people.

Senate President Therese Murray is calling on voters to contact House lawmakers blocking the ban on shock therapy. She is outraged that for years the Senate has unanimously supported a ban, but the House has refused to take it up. She described why she is so passionate against this procedure to us today. She says, “This is painful. The UN has come out and said that this is torture. How do we torture people who are disabled, who have am ental illness or are having psychotic episodes? It’s just wrong.” She says it’s time for the full legislature to take action.

What’s House Speaker Robert DeLeo’s response? He says he understands the horrors of watching the video of Andre McCollins being shocked at the Judge Rotenberg Center thirty times, but the Speaker is still signaling support for the Judge Rotenberg Center.

DeLeo issued this statement that says, “Any human being should be horrified by the images shown in the video of Andre McCollins’ treatment at the Judge Rotenberg Center. His agony and torment are real and heartbreaking. As the bills pertaining to this issue are being considered in the Legislature, our first and only focus is to ensure the law protects the best interests of the children. As someone who visited the JRC and saw firsthand the struggles these kids face on daily basis, which in many cases manifest themselves in acts of self-torture, burning, cutting and worse, I can say that we need to do everything within our power to ease their pain and suffering.”

You can follow Karen on Twitter @karenreports.


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