Antipsychiatry News Clips
1999 Commentary on current news by
Douglas A. Smith, webmaster of this website
Drug companies buy "influence" with U.S. presidential candidates
According to an article in the Boston Herald, "two top [Vice-President Al] Gore campaign advisers serve as high-powered Washington lobbyists for major pharmaceutical companies." The article alleges that Thomas J. Downey, known as the "First Friend" to Gore and "one of his closest confidants, represents drug giant Merck & Co. ... Downey's firm was paid fees of $20,000 by Merck for the first six months of 1999." Allegedly also, Peter Knight, "another longtime Gore confidant and top fund-raiser, was paid $100,000 to lobby for drug giant Schering-Plough during the first six months of this year ," Of Vice-President Gore's presidential campaign adversary, former U.S. Sen. Bill Bradley, the article says "Bradley took $64,150 from drug industry executives during the first 10 months of 1999."
Don't be surprised if you see news reports saying drug companies, including those manufacturing psychiatric drugs, are also buying influence with the leading Republican presidential candidates - and Congressional, gubernatorial, and state legislative candidates of both major political parties.
It is sobering to realize how powerless are our facts and logic condemning biological psychiatry, however irrefutable the truth they reveal may be, against the influence of drug companies' financial contributions to the people who make our laws. Might this be part of the explanation for the passage of outpatient commitment laws, the primary purpose of which is to force people to take psychiatric drugs that are so profitable for the pharmaceutical industry? Might this be part of the explanation for the passage of "mental health parity" laws mandating equal health care insurance coverage for psychiatry, which now consists largely of prescribing drugs manufactured by these companies that are buying influence with our lawmakers? Might this be part of the explanation for the U.S. Food & Drug Administration's (FDA's) failure to remove psychiatric drugs from the market despite convincing evidence that they are at best useless and, in the worst cases, cause permanent brain damage?
(Andrew Miga, "Gore aides tied to drug firms," Boston Sunday Herald, December 19, 1999, p. 5)
Kendra Webdale's family and the State of New York wanted it both ways - and got it
On the last day of its 1999 session, the New York Legislature passed a bill called "Kendra's Law" under which law-abiding people who are "diagnosed" as "mentally ill" who have been repeatedly "hospitalized" in psychiatric "hospitals" may be ordered to take psychiatric drugs as outpatients or, for no reason other than their refusal to take their "medication," be again involuntarily "hospitalized" and forcibly drugged in the "hospital." Kendra's Law is named after Kendra Webdale, who was pushed in front of a subway train to her death by Andrew Goldstein, a man who had been "diagnosed" as "schizophrenic" and had been recently released from a mental "hospital" and who had stopped taking disabling, brain-damaging neurotoxins ("medication") a doctor had prescribed for him. New York state's forced outpatient psychiatric drugging law, Kendra's Law, was named after Kendra Webdale because of the assertion that if such a law had been in effect when she was killed, and if Andrew Goldstein had been forced to take neurotoxins ("medication") pursuant to such a law, he wouldn't have killed her. New York's Governor George E. Pataki signed Kendra's Law on August 9, 1999.
On November 2, 1999, New York City's Channel 4 television broadcast a report on Andrew Goldstein's trial in which he was charged with Kendra Webdale's murder. The result was a mistrial due to a hung jury: Two of the jurors refused to find Goldstein criminally responsible for the murder because of his supposed mental illness. Ten other jurors wanted to convict him. In videotaped comments after the trial included in the broadcast, Kendra Webdale's mother and sister said Andrew Goldstein knew what he was doing when he killed Kendra and that he should be held criminally responsible for the murder.
Part of the TV news report seemed like an advertisement for E. Fuller Torrey's Treatment Advocacy Center and for psychiatry: It included a spokesman for the Treatment Advocacy Center saying Kendra Webdale's murder illustrates what happens when mentally ill people are not forced to take their "medication." Thus the TV report helps reinforce some of the public's misperceptions, namely, that mental illness is a real illness, that supposedly mentally people are more dangerous than the average person, and that these mental illnesses can be successfully "treated" with "medication."
Another report on the Andrew Goldstein trial appears on the front page and on page A3 of the November 3, 1999 Newsday, a daily New York newspaper. The article says "jurors in the panel of eight men and four women said that after they quickly determined last Friday that Goldstein was guilty of the murder, they grappled unsuccessfully for four days over whether his mental illness meant he should not be held criminally responsible for his actions." (Patricia Hurtado, "Jury Deadlocked - Mistrial declared in fatal subway pushing case," Newsday, November 3, 1999, page A3.)
Everyone should sympathize with the Webdale family because of Kendra's Webdale's murder. There is however, an inconsistency in the positions taken by Kendra Webdale's family and by the State of New York, which brought the murder charges: On one hand the Webdale family reportedly threatened Governor Pataki and New York legislators with unfavorable publicity if they didn't enact Kendra's Law - a law based on the assumption that the killer of Kendra Webdale was driven by mental illness that could have been but was not controlled by "medication." Under this reasoning, Andrew Goldstein killed Kendra Webdale because of his mental illness and should not be held responsible for his actions. It was because of this reasoning that the Webdale family and their supporters persuaded the New York legislature and Governor Pataki to enact Kendra's Law.
However, in Andrew Goldstein's murder trial, this same Webdale family took an inconsistent position, as did this same State of New York that enacted Kendra's Law. In Andrew Goldstein's murder trial, the State of New York tried to persuade the jury that Goldstein, Kendra's murderer, knew what he was doing and was therefore sane enough to be held criminally responsible for what he did.
In fact, of course, there is no such thing as mental illness or schizophrenia - no such thing as the disease that supposedly caused Andrew Goldstein to kill Kendra Webdale. Accordingly, Kendra's Law should not have been enacted, and having been enacted it should be repealed. Under this same reasoning, Andrew Goldstein should be held fully responsible for the murder he committed.
On the other hand, the State of New York should not be permitted to adopt the inconsistent positions it has in this case. The position of the State of New York presently is that, at one time, because of their mental illnesses, people like Andrew Goldstein should be forced to take harmful drugs misleadingly called "medication" so their mental illnesses won't cause them to commit crimes such as the murder of Kendra Webdale - but that at the same time such people are not mentally ill and therefore, when they commit crimes, should be criminally liable for their crimes. Nothing in the Channel 4-TV broadcast nor Newsday article alluded to this inconsistency in the positions taken by the Webdale family and the State of New York.
According to the later news reports, Andrew Goldstein was convicted of murder when he was put on trial again before another jury the following year.
Victims of Psychiatric Stigma Beware: "Liars on gun applications now face perjury charges"
According to an article on page 3 of the September 28, 1999 Chicago Tribune, anyone buying a gun in the USA is required to fill out a written application and "In addition to state penalties, under federal law lying on a gun application is punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000." The article says "Last year, some 1,600 people throughout Illinois were denied gun purchases, according to state police. After running their names through the government's instant-check system, gun dealers determined that they weren't eligible to own a gun." The article says 30 year old Waukegan resident Bobby Epson was charged with a class 3 felony with a possible prison term of 3 to 5 years for denying he had been convicted of a domestic battery charge on a gun application when he tried to buy a pistol at a local gun shop.
The article is about applicants for gun purchase who have a record of criminal convictions. It doesn't mention the fact that the application form includes questions about whether you have a history of mental illness.
According to the June 14, 1999 issue of Insight on the News magazine (pages 42-43), "Gunpoint confrontations in which armed private citizens turn the tables on violent criminals occur with explosive swiftness hundreds, perhaps thousands, of times each day in the United States." It cites a Justice Department study that estimates 100,000 to 200,000 defensive uses of guns a year. But it also quotes gun ownership opponents who claim "a gun owner is three times more likely to use the weapon against a relative than against a criminal and five times more likely to kill himself with it."
Whatever your opinion about gun ownership, the fact remains that a "history of mental illness" affects your right to purchase a gun from a licensed gun dealer.
"9 psychiatric hospitals run by Charter to close"
According to a September 28, 1999 Atlanta Journal-Constitution article, page D5, "Charter Behavioral Health Systems announced Monday that it is closing nine psychiatric hospitals as part of a major restructuring." The article says Charter is "operating under the weight of federal investigations into patient care and other issues" but that "Charter said the closings are unrelated to the federal [government] probes." The closings include hospitals in Little Rock, Kansas City and Columbia, Mo., Phoenix, Los Angeles, Dallas and in Indiana, but the closings and "consolidations will leave Charter with 79 hospitals, still the nation's largest private U.S. psychiatric hospital chain." The article says "In recent months, Charter has struggled with billing disputes and lower reimbursements from managed care companies, along with the [federal government] investigations. In April, a critical '60 Minutes II' broadcast alleged extensive problems, including patient injuries and deaths in the Charter system."
The article doesn't say so, but the 60 Minutes II broadcast included a secretly videotaped admission by a Charter psychiatric hospital employee that she and other employees fabricate evidence of "mental illness" to justify incarcerating people who do not really need to be hospitalized.
Psychiatry's advocates have responded to health insurance and managed care companies' attempts to stop unnecessary psychiatric "hospitalization" and "treatment" by persuading state legislators to pass laws mandating the same coverage for psychiatric "hospitalization" and "treatment" as for real health care, resulting in such laws being enacted in about 20 states, most recently in California.
Young murderer gets probation and (outpatient) psychiatric treatment instead of punishment
"In what the judge described as a 'tragic and exceptional' case, a British teen-ager who stabbed his abusive father to death walked free from court. Judge David Paget placed the youth, who was 18 when he committed the crime last year, on three years' probation and ordered psychiatric treatment." "THE WORLD - Patricide Probation," USA Today, July 9, 1999, p. 8A.
Isn't it amazing that because of our mistaken belief in the existence of "mental illness," some people guilty of murder go unpunished (other than being required to talk to a "therapist,") and others who have never harmed anyone, through "civil commitment," are incarcerated for years and even lifetimes? Who is crazier here, the so-called patients or our judges and lawmakers?
Shirley Allen's standoff at "Roby Ridge"
A 51 year old woman who was allegedly depressed, reclusive, and paranoid after the death of her husband was told by police officers she was to come with them for a psychiatric evaluation in a mental hospital. Instead of going with them, she pointed a shotgun at the officers. The result was a standoff at her home that lasted 39 days. More than is usual in cases of unjust involuntary psychiatric "hospitalization," both before and after police finally captured her, Mrs. Allen's case aroused the support of friends, neighbors and even strangers who knew only what they read about her in news reports. According to a newspaper, her standoff with police cost the local government $650,000 - illustrating how determined government in our supposedly free country is to overcome resistance to its tyranny such as imprisonment of law-abiding people in mental "hospitals." Mrs. Allen was lucky enough to be in a state where she had a right to trial by jury: After she demanded a jury trial, she was released without going to trial on the ground it had been determined she was not a danger to herself or others. After being released from the "hospital," Mrs. Allen said she will work to change Illinois involuntary civil psychiatric commitment laws. Click on this link to read a series of newspaper articles about what happened to her.
Protesters in support of Shirley Allen (left)
Shirley Allen at home after release (right)
Front page article in The New York Times promotes "treatment" for "depression"
The New York Times published a misleading front page article promoting psychiatric treatment for depression on Sunday, September 5, 1999. Antipsychiatry Coalition web-master Douglas Smith has sent the newspaper the below letter in response:
P.O. Box 1253, Topeka, Kansas 66601-1253
September 9, 1999
The New York Times
229 West 43rd Street
New York, N.Y. 10036
To the editors (for publication):
Your front page article, "Gaps Seen in the Treatment Of Depression in the Elderly," by Sara Rimer (September 5, 1999) was a misleading advertisement for psychiatry.
The article blames "brain chemistry" for depression, implies so-called antidepressant drugs correct this brain chemistry, and claims that current treatment for depression is effective. None of this is true. In the words of psychiatrist David Kaiser: "Patients hav[e] been diagnosed with "chemical imbalances" despite the fact that no test exists to support such a claim, and ... there is no real conception of what a correct chemical balance would look like." ["Commentary: Against Biologic Psychiatry," found at www.antipsychiatry.org/kaiser.htm and other web sites] According to psychiatrist Peter Breggin: "The most fundamental point to be made about the most frequently used major antidepressants is that they have no specifically antidepressant effect." [Psychiatric Drugs: Hazards to the Brain, p. 160, quoted in "Psychiatric Drugs - Cure or Quackery?" at www.antipsychiatry.org/drugs.htm]
Unhappiness, even if severe enough to be called depression, is a problem - not a disease. It therefore cannot be "treated." See "The Myth of Biological Depression" at our Antipsychiatry Coalition web site: www.antipsychiatry.org.
Why does The New York Times publish misleading pro-psychiatry propaganda as if it were objective reporting, especially on the front page? Why can't The New York Times tell people the truth as we do on our Antipsychiatry Coalition web site?
Antipsychiatry Coalition web-master
Mental patient's mother admits she lied about him being violent to get him involuntarily committed
On Monday, September 3, 1999, Mr. Gidone Busch was shot to death by a group of New York City police officers who, according to newspaper accounts, alleged they fired 12 bullets into the man only because they feared for their lives. Eyewitnesses however dispute the officers' claim. According to the New York Times, "Mr. Busch's parents, who live on Long Island, have insisted that while their son was mentally ill, he was never violent and could not have been a threat to the police. ... In November 1996, his family called the police to take him to University Hospital at Stony Brook after they said he had been behaving bizarrely, shadowing his mother around the house for five hours and then physically threatening his step-father. ... His mother, however, said yesterday that her son had never attacked or threatened his stepfather. She said the family was desperate and frightened by Mr. Busch's depression, but knew they could get him involuntarily admitted to a New York hospital only if they said he had been violent. 'If that's in the record, that's only because it had to be,' said Mr. Busch's mother, Doris Busch Boskey, in a telephone interview from her home in Dix Hills, Long Island, a few hours after the funeral of her son. 'The only way you can get someone hospitalized for help is to say they're a harm to themselves,' she said, 'So you say these things, even though it creates a stigma.' In New York State, individuals can be involuntarily committed for psychiatric treatment in a hospital only if they are considered to pose a danger to themselves or to others." The New York Times, Friday, September 3, 1999, page A15.
This mother's admission she lied to get her son involuntarily committed to a mental hospital illustrates how little regard for commitment law criteria families of the so-called mentally ill (and the psychiatrists they hire) have: When they want to violate a law-abiding but troublesome or uncooperative family member's right to liberty, they say whatever they must say to get the person involuntarily committed, regardless of the truth. This dishonesty is fostered by the "dangerousness" commitment criteria, which is vague and is a prediction of future conduct that can always be made and which is always impossible to disprove, however false it may be: No one can prove he or she isn't going to do something tomorrow or next week or next year.
No one who demands his or her freedom should be incarcerated unless he or she has committed a specific past act that was prohibited by law. Why is guaranteeing liberty to everyone who obeys the law too much to ask in a democracy like America? Only if involuntary commitment laws are changed to guarantee liberty to all law-abiding persons will our liberty be reasonably secure. And only then will America be fully deserving of patriotism.
New York enacts outpatient commitment ("Kendra's Law")
According to the New York Daily News (8/6/99, page 2), on August 5, 1999 both houses of the New York Legislature passed "Kendra's Law," a bill to incarcerate people accused of mental illness merely because they refuse to take psychiatric drugs or other outpatient psychiatric "treatment." The web-master of this web site Express Mailed the following letter to New York Governor George E. Pataki urging him to veto the bill:
P.O. Box 1253, Topeka, Kansas 66601-1253
August 8, 1999
Governor George E. Pataki
Albany, N.Y. 12224
Re: Please veto "Kendra's Law": A8477 and S5762
Dear Governor Pataki:
The New York Times (8/6/99, p. A15) said the Legislature spent the "last day of its annual session in disarray." On this last day of the legislative session the Legislature passed a truly terrible piece of legislation called Kendra's Law, companion bills A8477 and S5762. If you allow these bills to become law, they will allow people to be incarcerated not because they have violated the law or harmed anyone but merely because they refuse to take drugs that make them feel terrible and which cause permanent brain damage. In the words of a U.S. Court of Appeals judge, "Unlike the temporary and predictable effects of bodily restraints, the permanent side effects of antipsychotic drugs induce conditions that cannot be corrected simply by cessation of the regimen. The permanency of these effects is analogous to that resulting from such radical surgical procedures as a pre- frontal lobotomy." Rennie v. Klein, 720 F.2d 266, 276 (3d Cir., 1983, quoted in Douglas S. Stransky, University of Miami Law Review, "Civil Commitment and the Right to Refuse Treatment..." Vol. 50:413, 434, note 135. That's why the drugs to be forced on people by Kendra's Law are called "chemical lobotomies."
Although it was many years ago, I was once one of those supposedly mentally ill people who was involuntarily committed and forced to take Thorazine, a so-called antipsychotic drug, merely because I refused to see a therapist at his office (as an outpatient) as my parents demanded. I can tell you from experience psychiatrists order involuntary commitments and administer harmful drugs indiscriminately and that their "professional judgment" is no protection from unjustified and harmful use of their commitment power or their power to forcibly drug people. This is suggested by the words of a Wisconsin court: "the state and county concede that psychotropic drugs are involuntarily given to all types of patients" (State ex. rel. Jones v. Gerhardstein, 416 N.W.2nd 883, 889, quoted in Douglas S. Stransky, University of Miami Law Review, "Civil Commitment and the Right to Refuse Treatment..." Vol. 50:413, 414, note 8). Hearings before judges are no protection, because judges always, or almost always, approve physicians' requests automatically and thoughtlessly. In the words of a law journal article: "Despite statutory protections for commitment, research has found that procedures for involuntary commitment tend to be perfunctory and a legal charade, which merely 'rubber stamp' psychiatric recommendations" (Douglas S. Stransky, University of Miami Law Review, "Civil Commitment and the Right to Refuse Treatment..." Vol. 50:413, 417, note 29).
I remember it well, and I know I was no more mentally ill when I was involuntarily committed and forcibly drugged with Thorazine than I am today. I still live in fear that I may again be incarcerated and forcibly drugged without good reason. Living in a nation where human rights - such as liberty and freedom from violations of my bodily integrity - are not respected is truly frightening.
I am enclosing excerpts of various books and articles that I think, in various ways, show why "Kendra's Law" is wrong. Please read at least the parts I have marked in yellow highlighting.
Governor, please don't give psychiatrists the power intended by Kendra's Law. You are our last hope for stopping this terrible legislation.
Enclosed with this letter were Lawrence Stevens'pamphlets "Psychiatric Drugs: Cure or Quackery?," "Unjustified Psychiatric Commitment in the U.S.A.," "Does Mental Illness Exist?," and others, the retort that appears below to the Torrey & Zdanowicz June 7, 1999 editorial in USA Today, excerpts from Dr. Peter Breggin's book Brain Disabling Treatments in Psychiatry, a copy of the National Review article, "Cuckoo's Nest," by Eugene H. Methvin, July 15, 1996, page 38, about unjustified psychiatric commitment, (now on the Internet under the title, "Mental illness reform threatens to strap patients, consumers") excerpts from Dr. Margaret Hagen's Whores of the Court: The Fraud of Psychiatric Testimony and the Rape of American Justice, particularly portions dealing with psychiatrists' inability to predict violence, and a copy of the below letter to the editors of USA Today about the proposed forced outpatient drugging legislation. The above letter and enclosed material present a decisive case against forced psychiatric drugging (of inpatients or outpatients). It's sad Governor Pataki nevertheless allowed this bill to become law.
P.O. Box 1253, Topeka, Kansas 66601-1253
1000 Wilson Boulevard
Arlington, Virginia 22229
(703) 247-3108 FAXfirstname.lastname@example.org
August 5, 1999
To the editors:
I wonder what the reaction would be if the report on page 11A of the August 4, 1999 USA Today had read:
NEW YORK, Albany - Black people can be forced to take medicine or be confined against their will under legislation on the verge of approval in New York, state leaders announced. The law came after several attacks in subway stations by Black people this year, lawmakers say.Where the above says "Black" substitute "mentally ill" and you'll have what the report in USA Today really says. Some of a particular type of people committing crimes does not justify action against all members of that group, because we are all individuals. And most supposedly mentally ill people harm no one.
In her book Whores of the Court: The Fraud of Psychiatric Testimony and the Rape of American Justice, psychologist Margaret Hagen, Ph.D., points out that predictions of violence by psychiatrists are wrong two-thirds of the time - less accurate than a coin flip! Forcing people to take drugs because of unreliable psychiatric predictions of future violence is wrong, especially since so many psychiatric drugs cause permanent brain damage. Past behavior, not psychiatric "diagnosis," is the best predictor of future behavior: No one with a nonviolent past should be forced to take drugs to curb violence, regardless of psychiatrists' "diagnoses" or predictions.
web-master for The Antipsychiatry Coalition
Text of Kendra's Law
E. Fuller Torrey and Mary T. Zdanowicz of the Treatment Advocacy Center (TAC) say "...freedom punishes the severely mentally ill"
In a June 7, 1999 editorial in USA Today titled "How freedom punishes the severely mentally ill," (page 27A) psychiatrist E. Fuller Torrey and attorney Mary T. Zdanowicz, misleadingly assert that "Civil libertarians have made it almost impossible to treat psychotic individuals who refuse care." They argue that "The legal standard for assisted [i.e., forced] treatment should be the need for medical care, not dangerousness. ... States should enact strong treatment laws that say individuals [deemed by psychiatrists to be mentally ill] can live in the community only if they consistently take their medications. If they do not, they could be involuntarily rehospitalized." As support for their position they say "Americans with untreated severe mental illnesses represent less than 1% of the U.S. population, yet commit ... 4%-5% of the total annual murders."
Antipsychiatry activist L. Calvin Grandy, who maintains his own web-site, The Antipsychiatry Reading Room, [now StopShrinks.org] responded with a letter to the editors that was published on page 14A of the June 9, 1999 issue of USA Today. In his letter, Cal pointed out that the Torrey & Zdanowicz editorial "strengthens the hand of those who would rule by diagnosis, instead of by law" and that "To weaken the civil protections for law-abiding persons with a particular disability - mental illness - because a few 'might' be dangerous makes no sense and is a totalitarian action."
Although they don't say so in their editorial, the so-called medications Torrey & Zdanowicz are alluding to are neuroleptics, also (misleadingly) called "anti-psychotic" drugs or major tranquilizers. In the doses that are often ordered, these drugs make people feel so awful forcing them on people is a type of torture. Worse, neuroleptic drugs cause permanent brain damage. (See "Psychiatric Drugs: Cure or Quackery?") Forced administration of these drugs is therefore very wrong and should be stricken down by courts as an unconstitutional cruel and unusual punishment. Calling it "therapy" does not change the true nature of what is being done.
Torrey's & Zdanowicz's editorial illustrates the upside-down thinking of too many modern psychiatrists. They speak in a kind of Orwellian newspeak in which words invert the truth: Freedom becomes a "punishment" rather than a constitutional right. Imprisonment is "hospitalization."  "Assisted treatment" is forced treatment - or more precisely, forced administration of harmful drugs that is not truly a form of treatment. Brain-damaging drugs are called "medication." Drugs that cause misery and should therefore be called "miserizers" are instead called "tranquilizers."
Changing the standard for forced psychiatric drugging or involuntary "hospitalization" from "dangerousness" (whatever that means) to "need for medical care" would be foolish, because under such a standard almost everyone would be at risk of loss of liberty or forced psychiatric drugging. As Sydney Walker III, M.D., a physician who is board-certified in both neurology and psychiatry, writes in his book A Dose of Sanity, published in 1996: the "DSM's [American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders'] ever-increasing list of conditions makes it easy for therapists to spot pathology where none exists" (p. 128). In his book The Hyperactivity Hoax (1998) he says "The other major flaw of the DSM, related to the first, is that it labels virtually everything as some type of disorder. Thus a child who sees a DSM-oriented doctor is almost assured of a psychiatric label and a prescription, even if the child is perfectly fine. ... individual DSM labels include so many vague criteria that almost anyone can qualify. ... This willy-nilly labeling of virtually everyone as mentally ill is a serious danger to healthy children, because virtually all children have enough symptoms to get a DSM label and a drug." (pages 23-24 - italics in original). This same sad truth about psychiatry places adults at risk of unjustified psychiatric drugging, too. But Torrey & Zdanowicz would like the standard for forced psychiatric drugging or involuntary psychiatric "hospitalization" to be "need for medical care, not dangerousness" - as determined by psychiatrists, some of whom take the DSM perfectly seriously.
The truth is that even "dangerousness" is too liberal a standard, because it is based on unreliable prediction by mental health professionals of the defendant's future behavior. As psychologist Margaret Hagen, Ph.D., documented in her book Whores of the Court: The Fraud of Psychiatric Testimony and the Rape of American Justice (1997): "It is not nearly as ridiculous as what actually happens when psychiatrists and clinical psychologists are asked to predict which hospital patients will be violent in community settings after release. They are worse than chance. Worse than chance! They are wrong two thirds of the time!" (pages 163-164, italics in original). She points out that predicting future "dangerousness" by flipping a coin would be as accurate as predictions by psychiatrists or psychologists. Despite this, involuntary commitment laws in every state of the USA base involuntary psychiatric commitment or forced outpatient drugging on a psychiatrist's or other physician's determination that the person in question "is in such mental condition as a result of mental illness to pose a likelihood of danger to himself or others" or similar language. In light of the inaccuracy of psychiatrists' predictions of future conduct, this is a morally reprehensible standard in any country that claims to respect human rights - as morally reprehensible as making such determinations on the basis of a coin flip. Since it is impossible to predict future human behavior, the standard for depriving a person of liberty should be whether the accused has committed an unlawful act in the past for which he or she has not yet been punished. Is guaranteeing liberty to all law-abiding persons too much to ask of a democracy?
Many argue so-called mentally ill people can't make rational decisions and should therefore be forced into so-called treatment. This argument overlooks two important facts: (1) Mental illness does not exist (see Does Mental Illness Exist?), and (2) psychiatry has no truly helpful "treatments"! All of psychiatry's "treatments" are either so harmful or useless no informed, rational person would accept them! (See Psychiatric Drugs: Cure or Quackery?, Psychiatry's Electroconvulsive Shock Treatment: A Crime Against Humanity, and The Case Against Psychotherapy.) Some people do make foolish decisions about their lives, but psychiatrists don't make good decisions, either: They routinely force people into "treatment" who don't need treatment (for the purpose of making money from the "patients'" health insurance). They routinely give almost all hospitalized patients brain-damaging neuroleptic drugs. They damage people's brains with electric shock treatment. Shouldn't we all therefore want to live in a society where we know we are safe from forced psychiatric "treatment"?
Contrary to Torrey's and Zdanowicz's assertion, involuntary psychiatric commitment laws, in the USA and elsewhere, are written so poorly that it has become widely recognized that unwarranted psychiatric commitment is commonplace. There is no truth to Torrey's & Zdanowicz's assertion that commitment laws are too protective of liberty. (See "Unjustified Psychiatric Commitment in the U.S.A.") Probably every state's commitment laws permit people to be incarcerated on the basis of unreliable psychiatric diagnosis of "mental illness" and predicted future "dangerousness" or probability of deteriorating if not forcibly "treated." Rather than changing the laws to make it easier to incarcerate or forcibly drug people, commitment laws should be either repealed or at least amended so that all law-abiding people are guaranteed liberty, including freedom from forced drugging.
It is ironic and sad that psychiatrist E. Fuller Torrey, who 25 years ago wrote one of the best anti-psychiatry books ever written, The Death of Psychiatry, is now one of the most vocal advocates of psychiatric oppression. Since he is perceptive enough to have written The Death of Psychiatry, Dr. Torrey must know he is wrong from both scientific and moral perspectives, but he has nevertheless become an advocate of psychiatric oppression and psychiatric assault, perhaps because doing so is better for him professionally.
"...all of us are mentally ill to a degree."
In a letter to the editors published on page 14 of the June 28, 1999 issue of Time magazine, John M. R. Kuhn, M.D., of Rothschild, Wisconsin asserted: "Eighty percent of the population is mentally ill at some given time, and all of us are mentally ill to a degree." Lawmakers should think about this physician's sweeping statement when writing involuntary psychiatric commitment laws that make a physician's conception of "mental illness" rather than past illegal conduct by the accused the basis for incarceration or forced psychiatric drugging.
U.S. Supreme Court in Olmstead v. L.C.: We Won!!
The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that states may not force those of us considered mentally "ill" or disabled to live in state mental "hospitals" when less restrictive living arrangements are appropriate and available. This case was the reason for a demonstration by many of us former psychiatric "patients" in Washington, D.C., in May 1999. The New York Times, June 23, 1999, pages A1 & A16.)
While we of course wish it would be otherwise, this case is almost certain to not substantially reduce the frequency of wrongful psychiatric commitment in the USA. It may help some move from psychiatric "hospitals" to halfway houses or assisted living facilities where they will have more freedom than they do now.
Psychology Today magazine prints letter from web-master of this web site
A slightly abbreviated version of the following letter from Antipsychiatry Coalition web-master Douglas Smith appears on page 8 of the August 1999 Psychology Today magazine:
49 East 21st Street, 11th floor
New York, N.Y. 10010
To the editors (for publication):
"Depression: Beyond Serotonin" by editor-at-large Hara Estroff Marano in the April 1999 issue is more misleading than illuminating. In her accompanying editorial Ms. Marano acknowledges "The answers aren't in yet" about the theories she presents but never clearly admits "depression" may not even be a disease, that is, may not have any biological causes. Most of the theories she offers confuse cause and effect or blame depression for what is actually caused by allegedly antidepressant drugs. Careful examination of the arguments for biological theories of severe unhappiness ("depression") have caused me to conclude none of them have been shown to be true and that as far as anyone can determine unhappiness, however severe, is ALWAYS caused by life experience rather than chemical imbalance or other speculative biological theories that have been used to justify the sale and use of psychiatric drugs and the existence of biological psychiatry, and hence of psychiatry as a specialty distinct from psychology. Anyone who believes in biological causes of severe unhappiness or "depression" would benefit from reading the book "Blaming the Brain: The Truth About Drugs and Mental Health" by psychology professor Elliot Valenstein, Ph.D., and "The Myth of Biological Depression" by mental health attorney Lawrence Stevens found at the Antipsychiatry Coalition web-site, www.antipsychiatry.org.
web-master for the Antipsychiatry Coalition
P.O. Box 1253
Topeka, Kansas 66601
The appearance of this letter in Psychology Today is probably why there has been a substantial increase in the number of people viewing this web site. The editors of Psychology Today are to be commended for allowing both sides of this debate to be heard.
Do some psychiatric drugs cause violence such as homicide?
The cover story in the June 28, 1999 Insight magazine alleges "The killer kids in the recent rash of school shootings have one documented element in common: They all received prescriptions of mind-altering drugs such as Ritalin and Luvox." Ritalin is prescribed for young people considered to have "attention deficit hyperactivity disorder." Luvox is a new (supposedly) antidepressant drug of the same type as Prozac. The article says "Thousands picketed the American Psychiatric Association's Washington conference in May." Some of the picketers carried signs reading "PSYCHIATRIC DRUGS CREATE KID KILLERS." Kelly Patricia O'Meara, "Doping Kids," Insight magazine, June 28, 1999, pp. 1 & 10.
The July 12, 1999 Insight magazine (page 3) includes a letter from a reader who presented this argument: "In looking to explain the recent rash of shootings by troubled children, I don't see any sensible look at what has changed in our society that could have led to these incidents. Violence in movies and TV? Not new. Violent video games? Been around for years. Guns? Accessible to teenage boys forever. So what is new? The disturbing spread of drugs being used as 'medication' for children." Another letter writer asserted: "If a child was violent under the influence of cocaine, there would be no problem associating the drugs with the act. Why the difficulty when it is a prescribed, legal, mind-altering drug?" Another letter writer asserted: "The 'new mental illnesses' are wholly invented to keep psychiatry and drug companies in business with new customers and new ways to get the bucks."
President Clinton & Second Lady Tipper Gore Promote Psychiatry at White House Conference
The June 7, 1999 issue of Time magazine included an article about proposals to force health insurance companies to provide equal coverage for psychiatry and about the White House Conference on Mental Health that took place in June. The article said "President Clinton backs a bill in Congress to force employers to help too by providing equal insurance coverage for mental and physical health. ... Clinton aims to set an example by announcing at the conference that the Federal Government will begin providing its employees equal benefits for mental and nonmental ailments." The article says Vice-President Al Gore's wife, Tipper, "and other reformers want to convince the nation that mental illness doesn't result from bad parenting or lax churchgoing but from chemical imbalances." Antipsychiatry Coalition Web-master Douglas Smith wrote this letter to Time in reply:
June 7, 1999
Time Magazine Letters
Time & Life Building
New York, N.Y. 10020
FAX (212) 522-8949
Subject: June 7 issue: Nation - Mental Health Reform, pages 54-56
To the editors:
Almost everything asserted by Second Lady Tipper Gore about so-called mental illness is wrong. Chemical imbalance has not been shown to cause any so-called mental illness. Those who blame chemical imbalance can't explain what chemicals are involved nor whether the problem is too much or too little of any particular chemical. Neither can anybody explain what a proper chemical balance would be. There are no known biological abnormalities in the brains of mental patients other than those caused by the treatments. Neuroleptic drugs (which are erroneously called "antipsychotic") cause permanent brain damage and should be given to no one. Among others, an investigation in 1992 by a Congressional committee chaired by former U.S. Rep. Patricia Schroeder found "that thousands of adolescents, children, and adults have been hospitalized for psychiatric treatment they didn't need; that hospitals hire bounty hunters to kidnap patients with mental health insurance; that patients are kept against their will until their insurance benefits run out; that psychiatrists are being pressured by the hospitals to increase profit; that hospitals 'infiltrate' schools by paying kickbacks to school counselors who deliver students; that bonuses are paid to hospital employees, including psychiatrists, for keeping the hospital beds filled; and that military dependents are being targeted for their generous mental health benefits." (source: Lynn Payer, Disease-Mongers: How Doctors, Drug Companies, and Insurers Are Making You Feel Sick, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1992, pp. 234-235) Requiring equal coverage for psychiatry in health insurance, as President Clinton proposes, will encourage these abuses. Psychiatric "care" should not be included in health insurance policies because psychiatry, in truth, is not a form of health care and is harmful to patients. Time readers who want proof of these assertions will find it in books like Dr. Peter Breggin's Toxic Psychiatry, Dr. Elliot S. Valenstein's Blaming the Brain: The Truth About Drugs and Mental Health, Dr. Margaret Hagen's Whores of the Court: The Fraud of Psychiatric Testimony and Rape of American Justice, and in articles on the Antipsychiatry Coalition web site, www.antipsychiatry.org.
Please publish this letter so your readers will know where they can learn about the views of those who oppose psychiatry and the myths promoted by psychiatry's advocates.
Antipsychiatry Coalition web-master
P.O. Box 1253
Topeka, Kansas 66601-1253
Time has acknowledged receipt of the letter with a note saying it will be read by several editors. Let's hope the editors of Time are willing to make the magazine's readers aware of the case against psychiatry by publishing this or a similar letter.
7/8/99 UPDATE: They didn't.
Woman Arrested Because She Confessed to Mental Health Hotline
The front page of the May 14, 1999 Boston Herald reports: "In a bungled murder-for-hire plot, the Altoona, Pa., woman [Carolyn Burke] allegedly used her cash ... to hire a would-be hit man who promised to kill her husband's new lover, a 30 year old Quincy, Mass., woman. But the police might as well have labeled this case the Keystone criminals. The alleged hit man ... demanded $1,000 more ... Stressed by this development, Burke called a mental health hot line, where she allegedly confessed to the plot. Staffers at the hot line turned her in. Police arrested Burke Tuesday, charging her with criminal solicitation to commit homicide and with two counts of criminal conspiracy. ... By law, [mental health] hot line staffers are required to report anyone who is a danger to themselves or others."
("Jilted wife allegedly counted on death and taxes" by Mark Mueller and Paul Sullivan, Boston Herald, May 14, 1999, p. 1)
U.S. News & World Report: Voice of Pro-psychiatry Propaganda
The cover story in the March 8, 1999 issue of U.S. News & World Report titled "Beating the Blues" promotes the idea that severe unhappiness or "depression" is a "disease" that can be "treated" with drugs or electroconvulsive "therapy." When the magazine published letters from readers in response to the article several weeks later, the magazine did not publish letters such as the following from Antipsychiatry Coalition web-master Douglas Smith presenting the opposite point of view:March 4, 1999
To the editor
U.S. News & World Report
1050 Thomas Jefferson Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20007-3871
FAX (202) 955-2685
The U.S. News & World Report article about depression in the March 8 issue acknowledges "no one yet knows exactly what depression is" (p. 59) and reveals that Prozac isn't as effective as is often claimed, but the article also leaves the reader with several mistaken impressions. It has not been shown depression is EVER caused by chemical imbalance or other biological abnormality or that allegedly antidepressant drugs are truly helpful. The article incorrectly states that electroconvulsive therapy "is one of the most effective treatments against depression" (p. 58) and fails to mention the brain damage, diminished intelligence, and memory loss this "treatment" causes. It hasn't even been established that so-called psychotherapy is particularly helpful. Please do your readers the favor of printing this letter so they can be made aware of the arguments against psychiatry found on the Antipsychiatry Coalition website, www.antipsychiatry.org, presenting an opposing viewpoint.
web-master for The Antipsychiatry Coalition
P. O. Box 1253
Topeka, Kansas 66601-1253
The April 26, 1999 issue of U.S. News & World Report included ten letters to the editor about this March 8 article about depression. The above letter from Antipsychiatry Coalition web-master Douglas Smith was not included.
The first letter of the ten published was from the Executive Director of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) alleging mental illnesses are "biological brain disorders." Another letter said "Medication can counter the chemical imbalances." Another said "drugs have an important role in treating depression." The only letter that was significantly critical was from a clinical psychologist who wrote: "As the author of books about depression, I am thrilled that the problem received your attention. However, I am also dismayed at the overwhelming emphasis on the biological viewpoint of the disorder. Depression is much more than a disease caused by faulty brain chemistry. It is a disorder with many contributing factors, some of which are purely social. By overemphasizing depression as a medical problem in search of a drug solution, you lead people to underestimate its complexity. You unintentionally dissuade them from recognizing the need to learn specific skills in problem solving and forming healthy relationships."
No letters questioning all biological theories of "depression" were published. No letters alleging so-called antidepressant drugs are useless were published. No letters questioning the value of professional "psychotherapy" were published. Neither were any pointing out that ECT, promoted in the March 8 article, causes brain-damage. Apparently, the editors of U.S. News & World Report don't think the magazine's readers should know anyone anywhere questions the biological theories of depression or the value of supposedly antidepressant drugs or "psychotherapy," and they apparently don't want anyone to know psychiatrists are damaging people's brains with ECT. The refusal of mainstream news media to cover both sides of issues pertaining to psychiatry is one reason we need to advertise this web site! Send your contributions to: Antipsychiatry Coalition, P.O. Box 1253, Topeka, Kansas 66601-1253 with a note saying it is an "advertising fund contribution."
Dr. Myron Liptzin
The April 19, 1999 issue of Time magazine reports that a judge recently upheld a jury verdict for $500,000 against of North Carolina psychiatrist Myron Liptzin because one of his patients, Wendell Williamson, shot two strangers to death. The suit was brought by the murderer himself, "who was found not guilty by reason of insanity - and who then successfully sued his psychiatrist for $500,000 for not taking his psychosis seriously enough." According to the article, "the case will be examined in Santa Rosa, Calif., at a conference of psychiatrists alarmed at the prospect of being held liable for crimes their patients commit." The murderer was an eagle scout and student body president in high school and was a law student at the time of the murders. According to the article: "Had Liptzin [the psychiatrist] made clear how sick Williamson was and that he had a 'moral obligation' to stay on his medication, Williamson says, he never would have stopped taking the drugs - and never would have found himself on Henderson Street with his father's M-1 [rifle] and 600 rounds of ammunition" where he killed "at random, a McDonald's manager and a popular lacrosse player bicycling home from an accounting class." (Timothy Roche, "A Psychotic Killer Sues His Psychiatrist," Time magazine, April 19, 1999, page 8)
Several aspects of this case are of interest to us as antipsychiatry activists: (1) It illustrates how widespread and sincerely held is the belief that psychiatrists can predict future human behavior: Psychiatrist Myron Liptzin got a court judgment for a half-million dollars against him because he failed to figure out that his patient was going to become a murderer. Apparently, the jurors believed that "any competent psychiatrist who is familiar with a person can predict his future behavior" and that if Dr. Liptzin failed to do so, he must have been careless. This same belief in psychiatrists' predictive ability is the basis for involuntary psychiatric commitment of those of us who have never done anything illegal and never will but lose our liberty anyway because a psychiatrist says we are likely to become "dangerous to ourselves or others." We need to make people realize psychiatrists cannot predict future human behavior any better than anyone else. (2) This court judgment for $500,000 against a psychiatrist because he failed to predict that his patient would commit a crime in the future, and prevent it, will encourage psychiatrists - out of fear of being sued - to commit people to mental hospitals whenever the psychiatrist even vaguely suspects his patient or prospective patient may commit an illegal act in the future. It will encourage psychiatrists to keep people locked up "just to be safe" - that is, to keep themselves safe from liability. The consequence can only be an increase in involuntary "hospitalization" (incarceration) of people who never have and never will harm anyone but will become prisoners anyway because of the fears of psychiatrists. Keep this in mind when you are thinking about confiding in a mental health professional. Anything you say that makes the psychiatrist, psychologist, or social worker think you even might do something wrong in the future may very easily make the psychiatrist or whoever decide to have you locked up, lest they later be sued for failing to do so. (3) This case, or at least the Time magazine article report on it, perpetuates the myth that psychiatric drugs cure or control "psychosis" and that anyone a psychiatrist accuses of needing "medication" had better be forced to stay on the "medication" lest he/she go out on a public street and kill people as Wendell Williamson did. We need to make people see the truth about the unreliability of psychiatric "diagnosis" and the truth about psychiatric drugs, particularly those called "antipsychotic," namely, that they cure nothing and only disable people and often cause permanent brain damage and that it is therefore immoral to force (or even encourage) anyone to take them. (4) This case illustrates the fact that the myth of mental illness is used not only to imprison ("hospitalize") the innocent but to prevent the guilty from being appropriately punished for their crimes. Why was this murder not convicted but found not guilty by reason of insanity? It happened because his motive for committing the crime is incomprehensible. The concept of mental illness is a myth used to make the incomprehensible seem more understandable. Nobody could figure out why this young man shot two strangers on the street, so the jury decided he must be crazy. We need to make people understand that we don't need to have an explanation for all human behavior, because thinking we must come up with an explanation for why people do things sometimes causes us to invent mythological explanations such as "mental illness." Blaming "mental illness" explains nothing but merely gives an illusion of understanding. See Does Mental Illness Exist? (found on this web site).
Houston, Texas Psychiatric Hospital Administrator, Psychiatrists & Psychologist Stand Trial on Federal Indictment for Giving Unnecessary Treatment
An article in the February 4, 1999 issue of the Houston Chronicle reports on a trial involving federal criminal charges against a Houston psychologist, hospital administrator, and psychiatrists. It says "A 61 count indictment alleges the defendants used hypnosis, drugs, isolation and other techniques in a conspiracy to prolong treatment unnecessarily so they could keep collecting insurance payments." It says "Patients around the country, including some at Spring Shadows Glen [Hospital], have won or settled civil malpractice lawsuits, but the Houston trial is believed to the first in which therapists have faced criminal charges."
The article also quotes Dr. James Hudson, professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, stating that he is "an expert on the controversy surrounding dissociative disorders, but acknowledged that he questions the validity of the diagnosis."
The article also sheds light on the financial motivation of psychiatrists who testify in such lawsuits:It says one of the psychiatrists serving as an expert witness charged $90,000 to prepare to testify and would receive $2,800 for each day he testified in the trial, which has gone on for over five months.
(Mark Smith, "Psychiatrist admits agreeing to testify before seeing records," Houston Chronicle, February 4, 1999, page 27A)
Belief in Mental Illness Promoted in President Clinton's State of the Union Speech
In his televised State of the Union message to the Congress and the nation on January 19, 1999, President Bill Clinton spoke of "mental illness" as if it were as real as cancer or heart disease. His exact words were: "Let me say we must step up our efforts to treat and prevent mental illness. No American should ever be able - afraid ever to address this disease. This year we will host a White House Conference on Mental Health. With sensitivity, commitment and passion, Tipper Gore is leading our efforts here, and I'd like to thank her for what she's done. Thank you. Thank you." These remarks also at least suggest President Clinton supports psychiatry's supposed "treatments" such as those criticized by the writers whose articles appear on this web-site, partly because Second Lady Tipper Gore, who he recognized, has worked in cooperation with the National Alliance "for" (actually against) the Mentally Ill (NAMI), which supports psychiatry's harmful "treatments." You can write to President Clinton at The White House, Washington, D.C., 20500 to let him know why he should not promote belief in the concept of mental illness and how much you have been harmed by psychiatry.
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