PsychRights
                   Law Project for
              Psychiatric Rights

November, 2005 Newsletter

Hello,

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 only been sending a few of these each year and don't intend of ever sending more than one in any given month unless there is some especially important news or announcement.   My e-mail program seems to be randomly adding weird characters at the end of links so if any of them don't work, look at the links in your browser address and delete the weird ones at the end and they should work.

Finances

If you believe the work of PsychRights is important we hope you will  give PsychRights a tax deductible contribution.  Checks can be made payable and mailed to:

Law Project for Psychiatric Rights
406 G Street, Suite 206
Anchorage, AK 99501. 

Donations can also be made over the web by going to http://psychrights.org and clicking on the donate button.   

Please give generously.  It is my hope the high paid professionals among you will devote $1,000 of your charitable giving this year to this effort.  It seems like most working people could give $100 -- $250 and even people on Disability Income could give $5 per month if fighting forced psychiatry is important to you. 

PsychRights' finances are completely open and we post our financial statements at http://psychrights.org/about.htm Since I don't take any pay for my PsychRights work, donations go very far.  They go for direct costs such as expert witness fees, copy charges, filing fees, etc., and we have been able to sometimes  do such things as help someone get to a meeting.  We are very frugal with the money you donate.

I don't think I am the best at fundraising and asking for donations, but I would really appreciate it if you would give what you can.   In some ways PsychRights has done amazingly well financially, but we didn't receive as much in donations last year as the year before and if we don't get in a fair amount in the next month and a half, we will not do as well this year as last:


 
    2002               2003              2004             2005
  (2 Months)                                                 (to 9/30)

   $4,175           $28,090        $18,095         $13,710

 
There is a more detailed analysis of donations at http://psychrights.org/about/Donations.htm PsychRights is not in a financial crisis--we have almost $20,000 in the bank--but we have spent $5,000 more so far this year than we have brought in and we need your support.

Now on to what we have been up to and planning.

Overview -- The Interplay of Strategic Litigation, Public Attitudes and the Availability of Alternatives

PsychRights' mission is to organize a serious, strategic legal campaign against forced drugging (and electroshock) around the country.   Involuntary commitments are inextricably bound up with this.   In addition to this, however, PsychRights sees the legal campaign as just part of an over-all effort to reform the US mental illness system to a voluntary one, in which non-drug approaches are supported.   We believe that in order to be successful we need not only to have (1) a serious, strategic legal campaign (Honor Legal Rights), but also (2) Non-coercive, Non-drug Choices or Alternatives, and (3) a change in Public Attitudes.  These three elements reinforce each other in a way that can be depicted as follows:


 
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For those of you whose e-mail will not display graphics, we have this on the Internet at http://psychrights.org/education/threekeyareas-677.jpg

 Too illustrate the concepts behind the above graphic, a major reason why people's rights are not honored is because the judges and even the lawyers assigned to represent psychiatric defendants believe, "if this person wasn't crazy, she would know this is good for her."   Violating people's rights is therefore justified on the grounds it is good for them.  To the extent the judges and lawyers understand this is not the case, this will cause them to be more concerned with honoring people's legal rights.  Similarly, by winning high profile cases in which it is proven that these forced interventions are not in the best interests of people, it will change public attitudes.  The same goes with respect to Alternatives and Public Attitudes.  To the extent that Alternatives become available and establish they are effective, it will change Public Attitudes.  The flip side is true as well, ie., to the extent the Public believes Alternatives are effective, Alternatives will be given more support.  Finally, with respect to Alternatives and Honoring Legal Rights, it is my belief constitutional law does not allow forced drugging if a less restrictive alternative could be made available.  Thus, litigating this issue can "encourage" the creation of such Alternatives.  On the other hand, as a practical matter, having Alternative actually available will make judges much more likely to honor the principle that people can't be force drugged if a less restrictive alternative could be made available.

A paper titled "How the Legal System Can Help Create a Recovery Culture in Mental Health Systems," which includes a more full discussion of this, including the constitutional principles involved, was  presented at the Alternatives conference last month and is available at http://psychrights.org/Education/Alternatives05/RoleofLitigation.pdf

PsychRights has been pursuing this approach and I have been travelling and speaking a lot this year to present these ideas and in order to recruit psychiatric survivors and other interested people, potential expert witnesses and attorneys to the effort:

 
Action Conference

We reported on the Action Conference in PsychRights' August Newsletter ( http://psychrights.org/Education/NewsLetters/Aug05Newsletter.htm) and we continue to work on recruiting additional State Coordinators, Expert Witnesses and Attorneys who will take on serious strategic cases against forced psychiatry.  The legal effort pretty much has to be a state by state effort.

Alaska  http://psychrights.org/States/Alaska/Alaska.htm

Myers v. Alaska Psychiatric Institute.   We have been waiting a very long time for the Alaska Supreme Court to rule in this case challenging the forced drugging process in Alaska.  The briefing and other documents relating to this case can be found at http://psychrights.org/States/Alaska/CaseOne.htm The Court system reports there is a draft of the decision circulating and it is possible it will be issued before the end of the year.  We will almost certainly send out a special Newsletter when it does come out.

Wetherhorn v. Alaska Psychiatric Institute.   This was an "ambush appeal" in that we weren't involved at the trial level so it proceeded normally (unlike Myers, which was a four month all out legal battle).  We are seeking a ruling from the Alaska Supreme that people are entitled to effective legal representation.  The appeal also seeks reversal of the involuntary commitment and forced drugging orders.   The purpose of both of these (as well as Myers for that matter) is to make it substantially harder to obtain these orders.  This is another illustration of the idea that litigation can encourage the creation of alternatives because to the extent it becomes significantly harder to involuntarily commit and force drug someone, the system will need to figure out other things to do.   The opening brief in this appeal was filed last month and graphically illustrates what a sham these proceedings are from a legal perspective.  This brief and other documents are available at http://psychrights.org/States/Alaska/CaseFour.htm

We continue to work on other efforts to change the system in Alaska, especially the creation of alternatives as reported on in the August Newsletter, which is set forth in the 8/2/2005, "Report on Multi-Faceted Grass-Roots Efforts To Bring About Meaningful Change To Alaska's Mental Health Program,"   which can be found at http://akmhcweb.org/News/AKEfforts.pdf Things continue to progress, although never as quickly as we would like.  

In terms of working to change public attitudes, there was a recent story (with a side bar article) in the Anchorage paper, which I think really exemplifies how this works.  These articles can be downloaded at

http://psychrights.org/News/ADN11-6-05GottsteinEfforts.html and
http://psychrights.org/States/Alaska/CaseFour/ADN11-6-05onWetherhornvAPI.html

Massachusetts  http://psychrights.org/States/Massachusetts/Massachusets.htm

Massachusetts has the very active Freedom Center,  which is doing a lot of effective work through its grass roots organizing ( http://www.freedom-center.org/).  Aby Adams from the Freedom Center is the Massachusetts State Coordinator.   http://psychrights.org/States/Massachusetts/MAContact.htm

In February of 2004, PsychRights issued a memo on how the Rogers case has been turned on its head and become a forced drugging assembly line.  http://psychrights.org/States/Massachusetts/RogersOrders/RogersOrdersMemo.pdf

As mentioned above, Robert Whitaker, author of "Mad in America: Bad Science, Bad Medicine and the Enduring Mistreatment of the Mentally Ill," Grace Jackson, M.D., author of "Rethinking Psychiatric Drugs: A Guide to Informed Consent," Dan Kreigman, a local psychologist, Will Hall of the Freedom Center, and I will be presenting a Continuing Legal Education (CLE) program to 40 lawyers representing people in involuntary commitment, outpatient commitment and other forced drugging cases.  PsychRights believes changing these lawyers' attitudes is the most important thing, which is why the other people presenting are so key.   I am mainly going to try and engage the attorneys in a discussion of what sorts of things they need to win these cases.
 
Interestingly, last month, I was contacted by someone in a Massachusetts hospital faced with an involuntary commitment and forced drugging petition.  I was trying to jack up his attorney and sent her an e-mail with the following:

 
Do you have a good expert(s) lined up?   Are you going to take the doc's deposition?  Any others? . . . Do you know what the asserted grounds of dangerousness are?   Have you thought about challenging the proposed guardian, if there is one and suggesting someone else who will be more likely to follow what _______ wants with respect to the drugs?  Are you going to move to dismiss the petition?   Are you going to make any constitutional challenges?  Have you talked to the hospital about what it might take to let him out?  I have found here that really challenging what they are doing by these types of steps and especially by taking depositions, they become much more willing to consider a discharge.

 
Apparently, hospital staff saw the patient's copy of this e-mail and decided to discharge him.  The patient believes this was instrumental in his release and supports the concept that making it harder to commit and force drug people, in itself, can be a successful strategy.  Here, just contemplating facing a real challenge seems to have been enough to have the person released. 

Minnesota  http://psychrights.org/States/Minnesota/Minnesota.htm

In Minnesota, we have a State Coordinator, Lousie Bouta ( http://psychrights.org/States/Minnesota/MinnContact.htm), other interested people, and a psychiatrist who is willing to testify as an expert witness.  We are working on obtaining some good legal assistance and then putting together a case(s).

New York  http://psychrights.org/States/NewYork/NY.htm

In New York, we have a State Coordinator, Anne Dox ( http://psychrights.org/States/NewYork/NYContact.htm), and there has recently been some other organizing.  We have identified a couple of good attorneys -- especially one -- but financing, as always, is a problem.  It seems like we should be able to put something together there.

Oregon Case

PsychRights was able to pay Grace E. Jackson, M.D., $1,000 in expert witness fees to testify in a case in which a woman was otherwise going to have her child taken away from her because psychiatric drugs had induced suicide attempts in the past.  As a result of Dr. Jackson's testimony, the woman won in the Oregon case.  This is an example of how PsychRights having the ability to spend some money for expert witness fees can make all the difference in the world to someone's life.  There is no doubt in my mind that she would have lost without Dr. Jackson's testimony.

Potential Montana Amicus Brief

You may recall that at the beginning of this year there were 8 people at Montana State Hospital who called MindFreedom about being held and force drugged.  PsychRights got involved trying to help one of them and I was accused (not formally) of engaging in the unauthorized practice of law in Montana after I advocated for this person.  The entire imbroglio is laid out on PsychRights' Montana Page at http://psychrights.org/States/Montana/Montana.htm, so all I will say here is that it occasioned a letter to the Chief Justice of the Montana Supreme Court about how their ruling in the KGF case detailing the requirements of effective assistance of counsel was being uniformly violated.  http://psychrights.org/States/Montana/CJGrayLtr.pdf The Montana Supreme Court not surprisingly wrote back it could not really say anything outside of a formal appeal.  http://psychrights.org/States/Montana/MSctResponse.pdf We have been contacted by someone else who is appealing her involuntary commitment and forced drugging at Montana State Hospital on the grounds of ineffective assistance of counsel and if the timing is such that we can devote the resources to it, PsychRights will file or join in an amicus (friend of the court) brief in the appeal.

Other States  http://psychrights.org/States/States.htm

As mentioned, we also have state coordinators in other states and want them in the states that don't have them.   Anyone wishing to be considered as a State coordinator should please e-mail me at jim[[[@]]]psychrights.org.

International

In addition to the State Coordinators, Barry Turner in the UK ( http://psychrights.org/Countries/UK/UK.htm),  and Francesca Allan in British Columbia, Canada ( http://psychrights.org/Countries/Canada/Canada.htm) are acting as coordinators for their areas.   Both are very active and Francesca has particularly been a dynamo of activity, organizing a MindFreedom Chapter and really working against forced psychiatry in British Columbia and trying to get some alternatives going there.

Multi-Organizational Efforts

PsychRights has worked closely with MindFreedom ( http://mindfreedom.org/) and the International Center for the Study of Psychiatry and Psychology (ICSPP), the latter of which is the organization founded by Dr. Peter Breggin.  http://icspp.org/ In fact, I was elected to the board of directors of ICSPP at its October annual meeting.  I am also on the board of directors of NARPA, the National Association for Rights Protection and Advocacy (http://narpa.org/), which has historically been an extremely strong voice in favor of protecting people's rights from forced psychiatry.   We look forward to continuing collaboration with these organizations and outreach to other organizations that are aligned with PsychRights' efforts.   ISPS-US, the United States chapter of the International Society for the Psychological Treatment of Schizophrenia and Other Psychoses (http://isps-us.org/), seems a logical organization for such collaboration and PsychRights will especially be actively recruiting the psychiatrists among them to potentially serve as expert witnesses as appropriate.   PsychRights also collaborates from time to time with the fiercely independent Alliance for Human Research Protection (AHRP), http://ahrp.org People who want to be kept up to date on a daily basis should subscribe to Vera Sherav's e-newsletter at AHRP.

Daily Desperate Pleas for Help

In contrast to these positive steps, we receive desperate pleas for help from all around the country on an almost daily basis.  Most of the time we don't have attorneys to refer people to or potential expert witnesses.  We do what we can, but often it only amounts to moral support.   This is why we really want to be able to expand the State Coordinator System and recruit attorneys and expert witnesses.  And why we believe there needs to be a strategic, serious legal campaign that is coordinated with changing public attitudes and promoting the creation of helpful choices.  PsychRights will continue to work on these efforts to the maximum extent our resources permit.


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 interventions 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.

 

 

 


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