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Refuting the Straw Man Argument and Misrepresentation of My Position on Prone Restraints

June 19, 2010

On another wordpress blog, my position and that of my colleagues on prone restraints is being completely misrepresented. This is what is known as a straw man argument fallacy. Misrepresent the opponent’s position and make it into an argument that is easy to strike down while evading addressing the real issues. Their straw man is:


Some prone restraints have had lethal consequences;

A certain therapeutic regime recommends prone restraints;

THEREFORE, that therapeutic regime has had lethal consequences.

Of course, I am NOT making the above stupid argument that they claim. What I have demonstrated elsewhere on this blog by citing relevant literature, here and here and here (to name just a few of my postings) is that prone restraints have been shown to be very dangerous, particularly prone restraints that involve contact with the torso, either by positioning people on top of the person (as the diagram in Federici’s book shows) or underneath as with a basket hold…so dangerous that many states have already completely banned prone restraints (although a case can be made that prone restraint can be safely accomplished if there is no contact at all with the torso). Note that even proponents of prone restraint that does not involve contact with the torso, are opposed to the kind of prone hold where two adults are positioned on top of a child. We’re not just talking about a few isolated instances here. Candace Newmaker is not even mentioned in these articles. One of the studies I linked to shows that prone restraints are dangerous and deaths have occurred, even under highly supervised residential conditions where they were done correctly. We’re talking about the fact that there are very good, sound physiological reasons why prone, face-down restraints are very dangerous.

A better analogy would be reckless driving. Reckless driving is against the law because it is dangerous. This is so, even though the vast majority of reckless drivers have never harmed or killed anyone. By the flawed thinking of the Federici defender blogger, that would mean that we should not ban or have any worries about reckless drivers just because a small minority of reckless drivers have hurt and/or killed people. Ditto for drunk drivers. Most people who get behind the wheel of a car and are over the legal limit for alcohol never harm or kill anyone. Does that mean we should not ban or have any worries about drunk driving?

Obviously not, but by the absurd argument being put forth by the prone restraint apologist’s blog, what he seems to be saying is that since most prone restraints do not hurt or kill most people, they are okay. Wrong. Just because people get away with doing things that are dangerous most of the time and don’t get hurt or killed doesn’t mean that those things should be legitimate. Dangerous means that there is a serious risk of harm. Even though most reckless drivers will not hurt or kill anyone or even get in an accident, reckless driving is till dangerous and illegal. The same goes for prone restraints and with the exception of a few fringe proponents who are taking what is now a minority position that flies in the face of JHACO guidelines and the laws of a growing number of states that have banned them, the peer reviewed literature is crystal clear on that fact.

Ronald Federici is NOT a murderer and he has never been charged with, much less convicted of child abuse. There is a difference between opining something is abusive and saying someone is a convicted abuser. Let me be very clear about that. No one, as far as I know has ever been killed as the result of his practices and I am not accusing him of that. This is another straw man argument he attempted to bring in. I am not even claiming he has ever harmed anyone. What I am criticizing are his writings. My concern is about the danger of the prone restraint he is recommending, based on what I have found in the scientific , peer reviewed literature on the topic, not on clinical anecdotes. My concern is that what he is recommending be done in his self-published book is, in my opinion based on my review of the literature, dangerous.

However, the State of Virginia appears to have some catching up to do when it comes to banning prone restraints. Perhaps the State of Ohio, which has completely banned prone restraints could teach them a thing or two.

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