Law Project for
PsychRights August 2, 2005 Newsletter
You are receiving this e-Newsletter because we believe you are interested in
the work of the Law Project for Psychiatric Rights (PsychRights) in fighting
forced psychiatric drugging (and electroshock) through the courts by exposing
the faulty science behind these so-called "treatments." If that is incorrect
please just let us know by e-mail to jim[[[@]]]psychrights.org and we will take you
off the list. We have been averaging just two or three of these a year so you
will not be inundated with these.
MindFreedom Action Conference on Human Rights In Mental Health. At the end of April/beginning of May psychiatric survivors, professionals and other supporters of human rights in mental health gathered at American University Washington College of Law to develop and action agenda. There were six Tracks: (1) International, (2) Congress and the US Congress/Federal Government, (3) Choices in Mental Health, (4) How the Law Can Fight Forced "Treatment," (5) Public Education and the Media, and (6) Open Track. The final Report for all of these Tracks can be found at http://psychrights.org/Education/2005ActionConference/FinalReport.pdf I wrote a discussion paper titled Organizing Grass Roots for Human Rights in Mental Health for this conference, which is available at http://psychrights.org/Education/2005ActionConference/DiscussionPaper.htm
The Legal Track, which I facilitated, decided to focus on fighting forced "treatment" by establishing "State Coordinators" to organize the efforts on a state by state (& country) basis. PsychRights is to be the focal point for disseminating information and coordinating these efforts. There are already 10 states and one other country (Canada) involved. See, http://psychrights.org/Education/2005ActionConference/Legal.htm Psychrights is looking for coordinators for all of the states. The key elements in mounting an effective legal case or campaign are (1) recruiting a lawyer(s) who will vigorously pursue a case(s), (2) recruiting expert witnesses (usually this really needs to be a psychiatrist), and (3) case selection.
More or less progress has been made in different states, depending on the people involved. Alaska, for example, has an extensive coordinated effort to offer alternatives to drugs and diminish coercion, which includes a coordinated legal attack on the grossly illegal forced "treatment" regime. There are also a number of things going on in Massachusetts to try and address the scourge which is forced drugging there, but it has proven much harder. There are also prospects for getting something meaningful going in Minnesota in the relatively near future.
Report on Multi-Faceted Grass-Roots Efforts To Bring About Meaningful Change To Alaska's Mental Health Program. http://akmhcweb.org/news/AKEfforts.pdf This Report describes the efforts of three "consumer" run non-profits' efforts to offer alternatives to drugs and how PsychRights' efforts in Alaska tie into this. The three non-profits are
1. Soteria-Alaska, which is an alternative to hospitalization. http://soteria-alaska.com/;
2. CHOICES, Inc., which stands for Consumers Having Ownership In Creating Effective Services, to provide community based ( http://choices-ak.org/); and
3: Peer Properties, which provides housing. http://peerproperties.org/
PsychRights' Alaska efforts fit into this by suing to establish the right to these alternatives in the forced "treatment" treatment context. The Report is pretty comprehensive and also has links to a tremendous amount of background material. For those who are interested in what a coordinated plan to both decrease force/coercion and create alternatives to the drugs it seems worthwhile to take a look. http://akmhcweb.org/news/AKEfforts.pdf
There are two potentially very significant cases at the Alaska Supreme Court right now; Myers and Wetherhorn.
Myers I have reported on this case before so I won't go into it that much. Fairly detailed information on this case can be found at http://psychrights.org/States/Alaska/CaseOne.htm Almost a year and a half since oral argument and ten months since the supplemental briefing was submitted, we are still waiting for a decision from the Alaska Supreme Court. For all kinds of reasons, this does not provide a lot of comfort. The two most important aspects of this case challenging forced drugging in Alaska are that the Alaska and United States constitutions require (1) the government to prove scientifically that the proposed drugs are in the patients' best interest and (2) no less restrictive alternative could be offered. Even if we are successful in the Myers case, unless rights are enforced, it won't necessarily mean much. My sense is that if people's rights were honored, only 10% of those currently subject to forced "treatment" would be. Thus, if people received meaningful legal representation in these proceedings 90% of the problem would be solved.
Wetherhorn The Wetherhorn case directly attacks the issue of adequacy of counsel. This was an "ambush appeal," in the sense that, unlike the Myers case, where PsychRights represented Faith in a four month all-out legal battle at the trial court level, in Wetherhorn, the typical 15 minutes of "justice" resulted in Roslyn being involuntarily committed and subjected to a forced drugging order. We appealed on the basis that the petitions filed against her were legally defective on their face and she did not get effective assistance of counsel. This case starkly presents an example of Professor Michael Perlin's observations: