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The Forced Drugging of Bill Bigley

One Drug, Two Faces, New York Times, March 25, 2008

Superior Court Case No. 3AN 08-00247 PR
Superior Court Case No. 3AN 08-00493 PR
Supreme Court Case No. S-13116

Superior Court Case No. 3AN 08-1252 PR
Supreme Court Case No. S-13353
Supreme Court Case No. S-13383(Cross Appeal of S-13353)

Bill Bigley Passed Away November 21, 2012

Mr. Bigley's History

Prior to 1980, Mr. Bigley, an Alaskan Native, was successful in the community, he had long-term employment in a good job, was married and had two daughters.  In 1980, Mr. Bigley's wife divorced him, took his two daughters and saddled him with high child support and house payments, resulting in his first hospitalization at the Alaska Psychiatric Institute (API).  When asked at the time what the problem was Mr. Bigley said "he had just gotten divorced and consequently had a nervous breakdown."   He was cooperative with staff throughout that first admission.

At discharge, his treating psychiatrist indicated that his prognosis was "somewhat guarded depending upon the type of follow- up treatment patient will receive in dealing with his recent divorce."  Instead of giving him help in dealing with his recent divorce and other problems, the system's approach was to lock him up and force him to take drugs that, for him at least, do not work, are intolerable,  and have harmful mental and physical effects.

This pattern was set by his third admission to API.  As is often the case, the medication did not have noticeable favorable effects throughout the first several hospital weeks and there were a variety of unpleasant Extra Pyramidal Symptoms (EPS), which are involuntary movements resulting from the brain damaging effects of the drugs.    On 3/26/81 a judicial hearing determined that there would be granted a 30 day extension during which time treatment efforts would continue, following which there would be a further hearing concerning the possibility of judicial commitment. Mr. Bigley was furious that he was deprived of his right to freedom outside the hospital, but despite his persistent anger and occasional verbal threats, he never became physically assaultive, nor did he abuse limited privileges away from the locked unit.

In 1996, the Alaska Office of Public Advocacy (OPA) was appointed his conservator, which means they had control of Mr. Bigley's money.

In 2004, after Mr. Bigley had been locked up in API 57 times, API petitioned for Mr. Bigley to have a full guardianship appointed, which was granted and the Alaska Office of Public Advocacy (OPA) appointed his full guardian.   The grounds for this, as stated in the petition, was "[Mr. Bigley's] admissions are becoming more frequent with shorter stays outside the hospital."  At that point, virtually all of Mr. Bigley's legal right to decide anything for himself was taken away from.  He's livid about this.

PsychRights began representing Mr. Bigley on December 6, 2007.  It was looking for an appropriate vehicle to subpoena what have become known as the Zyprexa Papers, and advance other strategic litigation objectives that might be possible through representing him.  Of course, once representing him, as his attorney, PsychRights was obligated to do so vigorously with respect to any and all other interests he might have in the case(s) in which he was represented by PsychRights.  Initially, PsychRights thought OPA had been consenting to Mr. Bigley's forced drugging and as an alternative to termination of the guardianship if termination was not granted, petitioned to eliminate the guardian's right to consent to Mr. Bigley being given these drugs against his will.  OPA represented to PsychRights that it does not consent to the forced drugging of its wards, but PsychRights later found out that OPA had consented to Mr. Bigley being psychiatrically drugged against his will.

PsychRights later represented Mr. Bigley in a number of commitment and forced drugging proceedings.  In the first one, API just let him go after PsychRights got into the case and demanded a jury trial.  In the second one, Mr. Bigley won a jury trial on involuntary commitment and he was let go.  Mr. Bigley also won another jury trial on involuntary commitment in which another part of OPA represented him and Jim Gottstein of PsychRights testified on his behalf as a fact witness. 

In a public forced drugging proceeding held in 2007 when Mr. Bigley had been admitted over 70 times, API's psychiatrist testified that the plan was by repeatedly obtaining forced drugging orders Mr. Bigley will be trained to stay on his medication when discharged.   This, in spite of the fact that the approach had repeatedly failed for 27 years and over 70 admissions and that even after the maximum drugging, API describes Mr. Bigley's condition as "delusional" with "no insight and poor judgment, . . . paranoid and guarded."  In a deposition for that forced drugging petition, API's psychiatrist testified that Mr. Bigley usually "submits" when 3 or 4 staff members come at him with a needle, but on those occasions when he doesn't, he is physically held down and the drugs injected into him.  Mr. Bigley was also quite naturally angry about all of this happening to him. 

It is quite clear that Mr. Bigley's persistent psychiatric difficulties were the result of what the mental health system did to him.  The drugs do not "work" for a high percentage of people and Mr. Bigley was certainly one of them.  Instead of addressing his problems in ways that are known to be effective, API has continued to force Mr. Bigley to endure interventions that have quite properly been characterized as torture.

No one to PsychRights' knowledge has said Mr. Bigley has ever been violent towards anyone, but he persistently expresses his extreme anger at most everyone.  While there have been allegations that he has sometimes put himself in danger, the basic reason why Mr. Bigley was picked up, locked up and drugged up was he bothers people.  The following "Pickles" cartoon seemed apropos  of Mr. Bigley's situation, and Mr. Gottstein obtained Mr. Bigley's permission to post it on this web page. 

For more detailed information on Mr. Bigley's history to November, 2008, see Respondent's History filed in Superior Court Case No. 3AN 08-1252 PR.  Citations to documents in the Respondent's History are to the following:

Below are descriptions and documents from cases involving Mr. Bigley from 2008.  In 2009, at the instigation of Mr. Bigley's guardian, the Court held Mr. Bigley was incompetent to select PsychRights, which often prevailed, to represent him, and instead allowed the guardian to select the Alaska Public Defender Agency, which virtually never prevails.  Then the Alaska Supreme Court ruled that if the trial court found Mr. Bigley incompetent to decide to appeal he would not be allowed to appeal and have PsychRights represent him in that appeal.  That was done and Mr. Bigley was stripped of all rights to select PsychRights to represent him.  This effectively prevented PsychRights' from representing Mr. Bigley again.

Bill passed away November 21, 2012, the day before Thanksgiving. 

Superior Court Case No. 08-00247 PR

A story about this case was in the New York Times on March, 25, 2008: One Drug, Two Faces and the Wall Street Journal's Health Blog: Zyprexa: Balancing Serious Side Effects With Serious Illness.

On February 26, 2008, new petitions for 30 Day Commitment and Forced Drugging were filed against Mr. Bigley with the Alaska Public Defender Agency automatically appointed to represent him in both the commitment and forced drugging proceedings, the hearings for which were set for February 29, 2008.  However, Master Duggan recused himself and Master Lack was appointed and a hearing set for March 5, 2008.  At the March 5, 2008, hearing, Mr. Bigley said he wanted Mr. Gottstein of PsychRights to represent him and a "representation hearing" was set for the next day, March 6, 2008, before Judge Mark Rindner, the Superior Court Judge who was assigned the case (these types of cases are uniformly "referred" to a probate master to hear evidence and make recommendations, but they are Superior Court cases and Superior Court Judges ultimately responsible for them).  On March 6, 2008, PsychRights filed a Submission for Representation Hearing, including written testimony by Robert Whitaker, Ronald Bassman, PhD., and Paul Cornils, in which PsychRights indicated it would represent Mr. Bigley only with respect to the forced drugging petition which could only occur if and after Mr. Bigley was ordered committed under the "two-step" process the Alaska Supreme Court held was required in Myers and Wetherhorn.  On March 10, 2008, PsychRights filed a Motion for Less Intrusive Alternative under Myers, which held people can not be forcibly drugged in the best interests if there is a less intrusive alternative.


The representation hearing was held in front of Judge Smith on March 10, 2008, and he agreed that under  Myers and Wetherhorn, the forced drugging petition was the second step of a two-step process and that PsychRights could represent Mr. Bigley if it should get to that point, but Mr. Gottstein should not be involved in the case or interfere with the Public Defender Agency's representation of Mr. Bigley in connection with the commitment petition, which was set for Friday, March 14, 2008.  The judge indicated that he would treat PsychRights' filings as "lodged," rather than filed.  That seemed workable, but that night the hospital injected Mr. Bigley with Haldol and Ativan, purportedly on an emergency basis under AS 47.30.838.  However, AS 47.30.838 only allows such forced drugging to preserve life or prevent serious injury, and Mr. Bigley had even allegedly only been yelling and slamming doors.  Mr. Gottstein drafted a motion for a temporary restraining order against future illegal use of the emergency justification, which he was happy to have the Public Defender Agency file, but failing to hear back, filed it at the end of the day on March 11, 2008.  The court, however, returned the temporary restraining order motion package as well as the "lodged" documents, saying Mr. Gottstein was not a party and the documents could be refiled upon the determination of commitment and the filing of a new entry of appearance.  The next day, March 12, 2008, PsychRights filed a new entry of appearance and a Renewed Motion for Temporary Restraining Order.  With some involvement by the Public Defender Agency, the hospital agreed not to further forcibly drug Mr. Bigley on an "emergency" basis until after the commitment hearing that Friday, March 14, 2008, rendering the motion for Temporary Restraining Order Moot.  The judge also returned the Renewed Motion for Temporary Restraining Order paperwork.  The idea a judge can just remove filings from the official court file and return them is troubling, but in this case, it did no harm.  This could be appealed, but probably won't.

At the commitment hearing on Friday, March 14, 2008, in which Mr. Bigley was represented by the Public Defender Agency, the hospital's psychiatrist testified that there was no reason to hold Mr. Bigley if he couldn't be drugged.  This implicitly acknowledged that the doctor was not truly concerned about Mr. Bigley's safety if he was let go, although he did testify he was concerned that someone would assault Mr. Bigley if he was let out in an undrugged state.  Judge Smith noted that Mr. Bigley had been hospitalized over 70 times, was uniformly drugged in the hospital, released and quit taking his drugs only to be brought back to the hospital to repeat the cycle, and that there didn't seem to be any point in continuing to do that.  He also noted that Mr. Bigley had won his last two jury trials on the basis that he was not gravely disabled (actually he won only one of them for that reason; he won the other on the ground that his mental condition would not be improved by the course of treatment), and found that Mr. Bigley was not gravely disabled.  Mr. Bigley was then let go.  Thus, the forced drugging petition never got heard.


Superior Court Case 3AN 08-00493 PR


Supreme Court Case No. S-13116

Superior Court Case 3AN 08-1252 PR

Supreme Court Case No. S-13353

Supreme Court Case No. S-13383 (Cross Appeal in S-13353)

Last modified 11/8/2014
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