PsychRights
                   Law Project for
              Psychiatric Rights

Alaska
Case Two -- Informed Consent
by James B. Gottstein, Esq.

Summary

PsychRights is preparing is to file a lawsuit against the Alaska Psychiatric Institute (API) for failure to obtain informed consent prior to administering psychiatric medications (API is the only state-run psychiatric hospital in Alaska).  It is illegal to prescribe psychiatric medications without obtaining informed consent, this law is regularly violated, and the lawsuit is being filed to stop this illegality. The Draft Complaint to commence the lawsuit is available for review. The lawsuit is pretty much ready to go and will be filed as soon as the right plaintiff (client) is identified.

At the legal level, in terms of remedy, the objective is to enjoin (prohibit) API from prescribing these medications to anyone who hasn't already taken them because its psychiatrists fail, time after time, to disclose the real facts about the medications, thus convincing people to take them based on false and/or incomplete information.

The larger remedial objective is to move the mental health system to offer people the opportunity of getting through their psychotic break(s) without or with minimal psychotropic medication and also for people wanting to get off the drugs to be given a real chance to do so.  It is important for us to emphasize we are not against people making an informed decision to take these medications.  We know some people find them helpful and other people who have found them impossible to get off .  We have no problem with them getting the medications.  We do, however, object to people being misled into taking them with the horrific consequences that follow.  

The third objective, and in some ways, maybe even the most important, is to expose, through the litigation process, the truth about these medications and the lies that are being told about them by the pharmaceutical companies and their psychiatrist co-conspirators.  In a lawsuit, both sides can present their evidence and the court, which is at least theoretically a neutral fact-finder, will make a decision about the truth (or at least what is necessary to satisfy the informed consent requirement).  In other words, this is also a lawsuit to put these drugs on trial. 

Dr. Loren Mosher, former Chief of Schizophrenia Research at the National Institute of Mental Health has agreed to testify on our behalf, as has Dr. Grace Jackson and one other very knowledgeable psychiatrist.   Dr. David Cohen, co-author with Dr. Peter R. Breggin of the seminal book "Your Drug May be Your Problem: How and Why to Stop Taking Psychiatric Medications," has agreed to be our consulting expert to help us put the case together.

Background

The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS), the Alaska Mental Health Board (AMHB), the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority (Trust) and other interested parties, were notified in late 2002, that research has shown the Mental Health System's virtually exclusive reliance on medications is producing substantially worse results than could be obtained by having other treatment options available.  The extraordinary book Mad in America: Bad Science, Bad Medicine and the Enduring Mistreatment of the Mentally Ill, persuasively lays out the true science and how people have been misled about the efficacy and safety of these medications.  Mr. Whitaker has also recently  published "The case against antipsychotic drugs: a 50-year record of doing more harm than good," which lays this information out in standard scholarly format.

Under "common law" and under Alaska Statutes it is not legal to prescribe medications to someone unless "informed consent" is obtained.  With respect to psychotropic drugs in inpatient facilities there are a couple of very specific statutes regarding what is necessary:

Under AS 47.30.837(d)(2), in order to obtain informed consent, the hospital must give the patient all information that is material to the patient's decision to give or withhold consent, including:

1.      an explanation of the patient's diagnosis and prognosis, or their predominant symptoms, with and without the medication;
2.      information about the proposed medication, its purpose, the method of its administration, the recommended ranges of dosages, possible side effects and benefits, ways to treat side effects, and risks of other conditions, such as tardive dyskinesia;
3.      a review of the patient's history, including medication history and previous side effects from medication;
4.      an explanation of interactions with other drugs, including over-the-counter drugs, street drugs, and alcohol; and
5.      information about alternative treatments and their risks, side effects, and benefits, including the risks of nontreatment.

The Forthcoming Informed Consent Lawsuit

The prospective lawsuit will have API as the defendant.  The claim will be that API fails to obtain informed consent when prescribing psychotropic medications as required by law.  The Draft Complaint is available for review now.   The lawsuit is pretty much ready to go, but PsychRights needs a brave person willing and able to stand the heat to be a plaintiff  (the client in the lawsuit).  PsychRights is looking for someone who agreed to take the medications at API relatively recently and now feels he or she was misled about them.  Anybody who might be interested can contact PsychRights by calling (907) 274-7686, e-mailing jim@psychrights.org, or mailing at 406 G Street, Suite 206, Anchorage, Alaska 99501.  People from outside of Anchorage can call collect.  Psychrights is also looking for people who might not be the plaintiff, but who can testify to being prescribed medications at API.  People who are interested in that can also contact PsychRights in the same ways.

Funding

Legal representation by Jim Gottstein  will be donated to PsychRights on a pro bono base, but there will be substantial costs, primarily for depositions and expert witness fees so any and all donations are very welcome.  If people want to donate and have it restricted to this case, they should say it is for the "Alaska Informed Consent Lawsuit."   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.


Last modified 2/3/2004
Copyright 2004 Law Project for Psychiatric Rights. All Rights Reserved