Law Project for
November, 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 firstname.lastname@example.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.
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
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
2002 2003 2004 2005
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
(2 Months) (to
$4,175 $28,090 $18,095 $13,710
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:
For those of you whose e-mail will not display graphics, we have this on the
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
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:
- April 29-May 2, Washington, D.C., MindFreedom 2005 Action
Conference, "Activism for Human Rights in Mental Health: How the Law Can
Support Grassroots Action for Human Rights in the Mental Health
for the legal track. American University Washington College of Law,
Washington, D.C., U.S.A. (PDF)
- 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.
http://icspp.org 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/recap.htm Presentation on "How
the Legal System can Help Create a Recovery Culture in Mental Health
- 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 On a Panel Discussion of Involuntary
Psychiatric Treatment in the U.S.
- November 14, Boston, MA, Continuing Legal Education Program in
Boston. Presenting with Bob Whitaker, Grace Jackson, Will Kriegman, and
Dan Kreigman at a Continuing Legal Education (CLE) program to 40 mental
- November 17-20, Hartford, CT, NARPA (National Association of Rights
Protection and Advocacy) "Reclaiming Freedom: A Call to Action."
Presentation on what is happening in Alaska (
http://akmhcweb.org/News/AKEfforts.pdf) and on a panel on what is
happening with alternatives around the country.
We reported on the Action Conference in PsychRights' August
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
- 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.
In Minnesota, we have a State Coordinator, Lousie Bouta (
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).
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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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