PsychRights
                   Law Project for
              Psychiatric Rights

PsychRights August 2, 2005 Newsletter

Hi Everyone,

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:

 

"Traditionally, lawyers assigned to represent state hospital patients have failed miserably in their mission."

 
Competency, Deinstitutionalization, and Homelessness: A Story of Marginalization, Michael L. Perlin, Houston Law Review, 28 Hous. L. Rev. 63 (1991), and

 
[C]ourts accept . . . testimonial dishonesty, . . . specifically where witnesses, especially expert witnesses, show a "high propensity to purposely distort their testimony in order to achieve desired ends."  . . . 
Experts frequently . . . and openly subvert statutory and case law criteria that impose rigorous behavioral standards as predicates for commitment   . . .

 
This combination  . . . helps define a system in which  (1) dishonest testimony is often regularly (and unthinkingly) accepted; (2) statutory and case law standards are frequently subverted; and (3) insurmountable barriers are raised to insure that the allegedly "therapeutically correct" social end is met . . ..  In short, the mental disability law system often deprives individuals of liberty disingenuously and upon bases that have no relationship to case law or to statutes.

 
The ADA and Persons with Mental Disabilities:  Can Sanist Attitudes Be Undone? by Michael L. Perlin, Journal of Law and Health, 1993/1994, 8 JLHEALTH 15, 33-34.  More information on this case can be found at http://psychrights.org/States/Alaska/CaseFour.htm

At this point, the best place to see chapter and verse on why this case demonstrates what a farce these legal proceedings are is the Reply re: Motion for Attorney's Fees, which can be found at http://psychrights.org/States/Alaska/CaseFour/AttysFees/attyFeeReply.pdf  


Other News/Upcoming Events

Oregon Case
.  PsychRights was able to pay for Grace E. Jackson, M.D., to testify recently in a case in Oregon.   Based on her testimony, a woman was able to keep her child.    Loren Mosher described Dr. Jackson to me as the most knowledgeable person he knew on how psychiatric drugs actually operate in the brain and body.  Her testimony in the Myers case was instrumental in the judge's very favorable ruling questioning whether these drugs should be the standard of care and whether they might ultimately harm Faith.  Dr. Jackson has a brand new book out called "Rethinking Psychiatric Drugs: A Guide for Informed Consent," which I view as the definitive work on the drugs she covers.   The book may be obtained from http://www.authorhouse.com/BookStore/ItemDetail~bookid~33296.aspx

AK  Just today, we entered an appearance in an involuntary commitment case.   As is described in the Report ( http://akmhcweb.org/news/AKEfforts.pdf ) we want to make involuntary "treatment" as difficult as possible to obtain and just a few vigorously defended cases might discourage the State from automatically seeking involuntary orders.  We are taking the psychiatrist's deposition tomorrow and the trial is set for Friday.

October 7-9, Flushing, NY, ICSPP (International Center for the Study of Psychiatry and Psychology) "Schizophrenia And Bipolar Disorder: Scientific Facts Or Scientific Delusions? Implications for theory and treatment."  ICSPP is holding its annual conference again this year in Flushing, New York.  See, http://icspp.org/ I am scheduled to give a presentation on Grass Roots, Multi-Organizational Effort In Support of Human Rights in Mental Illness. 

October 26-30, Phoenix, AZ, "Alternatives 2005: Leading the Transformation to Recovery."  http://power2u.org/alternatives2005.html I am slated to give a presentation on "How the Legal System can Help Create a Recovery Culture in Mental Health Systems."

November 11-13, Boston, MA, ISPS-US (International Society for the Psychological Treatment of Schizophrenia and Other Psychoses) The Validity of Experience.  See, http://www.isps-us.org/ I am scheduled to be on a Panel Discussion of Involuntary Psychiatric Treatment in the U.S.

November 14, Boston, MA, Continuing Legal Education Program in Boston.  On Monday, November 14, I am scheduled to be presenting with Bob Whitaker and Dan Kreigman at a Continuing Legal Education (CLE) program to mental health lawyers.

November 17-20, Hartford, CT, NARPA (National Association of Rights Protection and Advocacy) "Reclaiming Freedom: A Call to Action."  http://www.narpa.org/ It hasn't been decided yet, but it seems likely I will be slotted to give a presentation on The National Legal Campaign Against Forced "Treatment" or "Multi-Faceted Grass-Roots Efforts To Bring About Meaningful Change To Alaska's Mental Health Program."

Finances/Donations/Volunteers  PsychRights' finances are transparent with financial reports available at http://psychrights.org/about.htm For example, our base of support has grown, with 43 separate donors contributing in 2004, which is up from 18 in 2003.   Funds are used with great effect, including to pay some representation costs, such as for Dr. Jackson to testify in the Oregon case to help a mother keep her child. 

We will be very grateful for any donations.  Our suggested levels of giving are:

 
Professionals  --  $1,000 per year
Other fully employed people  -- $250 per year
Low-income Survivors and other supporters  -- $5 per month

 
If you support PsychRights' work and can donate, please do so.  Donations are tax-deductible.  It is really important to have as many donors

We also have volunteer opportunities, including, as mentioned above, for State Coordinators.


James B. (Jim) Gottstein, Esq.

Law Project for Psychiatric Rights
406 G Street, Suite 206
Anchorage, Alaska  99501
Phone: (907) 274-7686)  Fax: (907) 274-9493
jim[[[@]]]psychrights.org
http://psychrights.org/

  Psych Rights
            Law Project for
       Psychiatric Rights

The Law Project for Psychiatric Rights is a public interest law firm devoted to the defense of people facing the horrors of unwarranted forced psychiatric drugging.  We are further dedicated to exposing the truth about these drugs and the courts being misled into ordering people to be drugged and subjected to other brain and body damaging procedures against their will.  Extensive information about this is available on our web site, http://psychrights.org/. Please donate generously.  Our work is fueled with your IRS 501(c) tax deductible donations.  Thank you for your ongoing help and support.