Many may assume that electric shock therapy is an antiquated practice and a thing of the past. It’s been widely condemned by organizations like the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the American Association of People with Disabilities, and the U.N.’s Human Rights Council considers the treatment to be torture.

But there’s one treatment facility left that still uses electric shock therapy, and it’s in Massachusetts: The Judge Rotenberg Educational Center in Canton. On Thursday, the Supreme Judicial Court ruled the center can continue to use electric shock therapy on patients with developmental and intellectual diseases, including autism, by upholding a consent decree specifically shielding the center that was put on the books decades ago.

Advocates like Elisa Hunt, lead organizer of the Stop the Shock Coalition, accuse the center of abusing that power and using the shocks in seemingly innocuous situations.

“The JRC contends that they only use this for dangerous behaviors, but at the same time, they also say that certain actions like standing up is, for certain individuals, an indication that they're going to be violent,” Hunt said. “And that is considered an actionable cause to get a shock — just standing up — because they might become violent when they stand up.”

Despite anecdotal evidence to the contrary, including a video of a patient being tied to a gurney and shocked 31 times, the JRC maintains they only use electric shock therapy in worst-case scenarios, in which the recipients are at risk of harming others or themselves.

The Judge Rotenberg Center and the school’s parents organization said they were “pleased” with the ruling that lets them continue the treatment, saying it is a “matter of life and death” for patients.

“JRC and the parents and guardians of JRC’s clients will continue to ensure that this treatment remains available to those for whom all other treatment options have been tried and failed,” the center wrote in a statement.

A representative for the center pointed to prior positive trial testimony from former patients and families, which, in the words of the ruling, “credited JRC’s aversive treatments with significantly improving these patients' problematic behaviors.”

Arguments that electric shock therapy is effective are unfounded, Hunt said, and there is a litany of other treatments that should be used instead.

“There are so many more therapies now that are much more humane,” she said. “These people deserve to be treated humanely.”

Hunt said she’s hoping to change the practice through legislation after decades of judges ruling in the center’s favor. She joined forces with 29 other organizations to form the Stop the Shock Coalition to try and further Bill H.180, which would “prohibit the use of procedures which cause physical pain or deny a reasonable humane existence to persons with disabilities.”

This specific bill, currently sitting in the House, has been introduced many times over the past 10 years but has never come to fruition.

Hunt said a particularly challenging roadblock for the legislation is a group of families of individuals at the Judge Rotenberg Center who advocate for the use of electric shock therapy.

“I just have to think that they’re misguided because there’s no way that they could believe that hurting their child is the only way,” she said. “Unless someone’s manipulating them to think that.”

Hunt said the Stop the Shock Coalition’s work is especially personal to her, as someone close to her died due to institutional abuse. She alleged the facility overmedicated the patient, neglected her and treated her inhumanely.

“If we can get this bill passed, not only will it stop the shock, but if we can add some penalties to it, it would at least create a consequence for these facilities,” she said.