Child patients starve in Turkey’s mental hospitals

The Sunday Times
October 09, 2005

Child patients starve in Turkey’s mental hospitals
Nicola Smith, Brussels

TURKEY is to be pressed by the European commission to improve the treatment of its psychiatric patients after an undercover investigation found children in its hospitals dying from starvation, dehydration and lack of medical care.

Olli Rehn, the European enlargement commissioner, said last week that the commission would look into conditions in psychiatric hospitals as part of its assessment of Turkey’s fitness to join the European Union. Membership talks were formally opened last week but it could be at least a decade before it is decided whether Turkey will be admitted.

During a visit to Ankara last week Rehn warned his hosts to expect tougher scrutiny of their human rights record. “The EU has reflected its commitment and now I expect Turkey to respect its commitments and this means vigorously implementing political reforms in the area of human rights,” he said.

A two-year investigation by Mental Disability Rights International (MDRI), a Washington-based lobby group, revealed a heart-wrenching picture of brutal abuse in Turkey’s mental health system.

The group was especially shocked by what it said was the regular use of electroconvulsive or “shock” treatment on adults and children as young as nine without anaesthetic. This not only violated international regulations but was also “tantamount to torture”, it said.

Investigators who gained access to hospitals and rehabilitation centres described how staff would make no effort even to feed some young patients.

“A little girl, who looked to be about two years old, was crying and squirming in her crib,” wrote one investigator. “A full bottle of formula was lying in the corner of her crib, just out of reach. I watched for over an hour and no one came to feed her. She would have had nothing if I hadn’t helped her.”

The report describes how infants left to languish for years in a state of inactivity suffered contorted arms, legs and spines. Others were tied to beds or had plastic bottles taped to their hands to stop them scratching, permanently damaging their ability to move.

Children were given little stimulation or proper medical attention that could have improved treatable conditions while researchers claimed that the most severely ill infants were sometimes left to die.

“I observed one child, who had vomited all over himself and his bed sheets, left for more than half an hour covered with flies and without any help,” wrote one.

The treatment of mental health patients is already closely observed in Bulgaria and Romania, which are both hoping to join the EU in 2007, but there has been far less focus on the issue in Turkey.

Richard Howitt, a Labour MEP, described the MDRI’s findings as “deeply disturbing”. He said: “This is a definite call to action for all who believe that Turkey’s European progress is dependent on the improvement of human rights.”

What to do if you’re threatened with forced ECT

If you or a loved one are facing threats of forced ECT, you first need to immediately call your state’s Protection and Advocacy Department. Click here for more information and direct contact to your state. These are federally funded (CMHS) to investigate reports of abuse and neglect in mental health facilities, private or public. I will say that some states’ P&A’s are better than others. Frankly, some suck. Others don’t. Hopefully you live in a good state.

National Disability and Rights Network: Protection and advocacy for persons with disabilities.

If you have called your state’s P&A for any assistance and they gave you the run-around, please contact me, and I will use my connections and resources to investigate.

Once you’ve called your P&A to find out your rights, you should contact me. You can either email me or call my office phone and leave a voice mail. Contact information is on the contact page. You don’t have to go public to fight it, although involving the media can often bring pressure that will cause doctors to back down. On the other hand, such pressure can also cause them to dig in for a battle. I will do everything I can to bring in others and fight for you.

You will not be alone.

If you need help, public awareness can help, but it is not mandatory. You do not have to go public as the persons portrayed here have done. It’s understandably a frightening thing, and the stigma can be nearly as frightening as the forced treatment.

But you do need to make a commitment to say no, even if you said yes in the past.

Abuse of Electroshock Found in Turkish Mental Hospitals

New York Times
September 29, 2005

Abuse of Electroshock Found in Turkish Mental Hospitals

PARIS, Sept. 28- Turkey’s psychiatric hospitals are riddled with horrific abuses, including the use of raw electroshock as a form of punishment, according to a human rights report issued in Istanbul on Wednesday, just days before Turkey begins formal talks to join the European Union.The report, by Mental Disability Rights International, a Washington-based group, came after several visits in the past year by the group’s investigators to psychiatric hospitals and other facilities for people with developmental or mental disabilities.

While the report details many types of abuses, it said the most disturbing involved the use of electroconvulsive therapy without anesthesia to treat a wide range of illnesses in adults and children. The World Health Organization has called for a ban on “unmodified” or “direct” use of the treatment and states that children should never be subjected to it in any form.

The therapy, in which an electrical current is passed through the brain, was developed in the 1930′s and continues to be used in mainstream psychiatry to treat a limited number of ailments. But it is normally administered with anesthesia and muscle relaxants.

Without them it can be painful, terrifying and dangerous. Patients can break jaws or crack vertebrae during the induced seizures. The report quotes a 28-year-old patient at Bakirkoy Psychiatric Hospital in Istanbul as saying, “I felt like dying.”

The Health Ministry, which is responsible for psychiatric hospitals, said it had not yet read the report and declined to comment, other than to say that the director of the electroconvulsive therapy center at Bakirkoy denied administering unmodified electroshocks there.

But on one day in April when the rights group’s staff visited the center, 24 people received such treatments, the report said. Technicians at the center told the group that only patients who had broken bones, presumably from previous treatments, were given anesthesia.

The human rights group estimated that unmodified shock treatment was used on nearly a third of patients undergoing psychiatric crises at the government-run hospitals, including children as young as 9. The treatment is also administered for many illnesses, like postpartum depression, that are not generally considered by the international psychiatric community to warrant electroshock.

The investigators also found that the treatment was used as punishment. The report describes patients being dragged to electroshock therapy in straitjackets and forcibly held down during the procedure.

“If we use anesthesia the E.C.T. won’t be as effective, because they won’t feel punished,” the report quotes the director of the electroconvulsive therapy center as saying.

Referring to that statement, Eric Rosenthal, the founder of the rights group, said in a telephone interview from Istanbul, “That was one of most horrifying statements I’ve ever heard in 12 years of doing this work.”

Turkey has been criticized for using unmodified electroshock before. In 1997 the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture called on Turkey to stop the practice, and the Health Ministry promised to do so.

Now, the new report is likely to complicate Turkey’s talks with the European Union, because of the organization’s strict human rights requirements for membership.

“There’s no question that what’s described in the report counts as torture under the European convention and shouldn’t exist in Turkey or anywhere in Europe,” said Richard Howitt, a British member of the European Parliament who sits on the joint European Union-Turkish parliamentary committee.

He said he would bring up the report as part of the membership negotiations, because to join, a nation must be judged to follow democratic principles, respect human rights and be on its way to meeting certain economic and institutional standards.

The report, which includes testimony from former patients and videos taken inside some institutions, reported other abuses as well.

Much of the documented abuse took place in orphanages and rehabilitation centers for children with developmental or intellectual disabilities. Investigators saw emaciated and neglected children, many of whom had behavioral problems that were likely to have been the result of mistreatment rather than pre-existing illness, Mr. Rosenthal said.

“We saw children who were essentially abandoned, starving, tied down to their beds,” he said, adding that investigators had not been allowed to see the worst wards.

Photographs and videos taken at the Saray Rehabilitation Center, the largest of Turkey’s government-run rehabilitation centers, show skeletal children, some with plastic water bottles taped over their hands to prevent them from biting their fingers. Other children with only minor disabilities are mixed in with the rest.

Although the center keeps no mortality records, a footnote in the report notes that the large number of admissions without a corresponding number of discharges suggests that many children die at the center.

“We believe there’s a very high death rate in these facilities,” Mr. Rosenthal said.

Officials at Turkey’s Directorate for Social Services and Child Protection could not be reached for comment.

The report said that there were no enforceable laws in Turkey to protect mentally ill people from arbitrary detention or forced treatment and that there were virtually no community services that might keep them out of institutions. As a result, according to the report, thousands are institutionalized for life.

Mr. Rosenthal founded Mental Disability Rights International in 1993. It now has a staff of nine people, including one in Turkey.

Massacres of Armenians Recalled

STRASBOURG, France, Sept. 28 (Reuters) – The European Parliament gave only a grudging blessing on Wednesday to membership talks with Turkey starting next week and said Ankara must recognize the massacres of Armenians during the years around 1915 as genocide before it can join the Euopean Union.

The resolution, which is nonbinding, was a political slap for Turkey, which insists that the killings, carried out by the Ottoman Empire, did not constitute genocide.


Spring 2002 (pp.63-71)
Ethical Human Sciences and Services: An International Journal of Critical Inquiry

This is another exquisite article by my friend Leonard Roy Frank.


Kathleen Garrett forced shock hearing transcript

These transcripts are online with the full permission of Kathleen Garrett and her son, Steve Vance. They provided these documents to me with the expectation that I would make them public. There are numerous typos (including getting Mrs. Garrett’s name wrong) – I have left them as is.




Cause No.300536-P-CC
Hon. Dennis Schaumann

MAY 16, 2000

Assistant Circuit Attorney
1320 Market Street
St. Louis, MO 63103 on behalf of the State of Missouri;

Attorney at Law on behalf of the Respondent.


THE COURT: This is cause number 300536-P-CC, a matter in the interest of Katherine Garrett. Before the Court is a petition for a twenty-one day involuntary detention and treatment, and further a petition for court ordered electroconvulsive therapy.

The Petitioner is South Pointe Hospital here represented by Mr. Timothy Finnegan, Assistant Circuit Attorney. Let the record reflect that the respondent, Ms. Katherine Garrett, is present in person and at this point is represented by Mr. Blair K. Drazik, Attorney at Law. Previously she was — Ms. Garrett was represented by Ms. Pricilla Price by court appointed attorney by this Court, who has since the entry of Mr. Drazik, she will withdraw as attorney for Ms. Garrett.

Is the Petitioner ready to proceed on these petitions?

MR. FINNEGAN: Petitioner is ready to proceed, Your Honor.

THE COURT: Mr. Drazik, are you ready to proceed on behalf of Ms. Garrett?

MR. DRAZIK: Yes, Your Honor, but previous to the hearing of the evidence, we would like to move to dismiss the petition on the grounds that if the facts therein are proven to be true, it would constitute a violation of the due process clause of the 14th Amendment
of the United States Constitution in that it would allow the State to determine the best medical treatment for this lady, thereby depriving her of the right to bodily self determination. And so for that reason, we believe even if the ground as proven in the petition are proved to be true, that even in that event, it would be an unconstitutional deprivation of her right to liberty and unconstitutional intrusion of the due process clause to do the electroconvulsive therapy.

THE COURT: Your motion goes to the petition for a court ordered electroconvulsive therapy?

MR. DRAZIK: Correct. We — our constitutional argument does not go to the commitment portion of the petition. Only to the electroshock therapy, in that deprives her of her right to bodily self determination as secured by the 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution, since it’s the State who is attempting to take that from her.

THE COURT: Okay. Thank you, Mr. Drazik. Before we begin with the hearing – -

MR. DRAZIK: Your Honor, for the record further, even if the petition does state a claim, we would ask that the Court construe the language of the statute and the law if it could be done so that’s consistent with the due process as possible by making the least intrusion as possible into the right to – -

THE COURT- Your motion to dismiss is overruled. Your second request or motion will be considered by the Court. Anything further before we begin?

MR. DRAZIK: No, Your Honor.

THE COURT: Mr. Finnegan, you may call your first witness.

MR. FINNEGAN: Thank you, Your Honor. Petitioner would call Dr. Mofsen.

being duly sworn, testified as follows:


THE COURT: You may inquire, Mr. Finnegan.

MR. FINNEGAN: Thank you, Your Honor.

Q Doctor, tell the Court your name.

A Doctor Rick Mofsen.

Q What’s your occupation?

A Physician.

Q Do you have a specialty?

A Yes.

Q What is that?

A Psychiatry.

Q Are you licensed to practice medicine in the State of Missouri?

A Yes, I am.

Q How long have you been practicing in the field of psychiatry?

A Over eleven years.

Q Have you previously appeared in this Court as an expert witness?

A Yes, I have.

Q Can you estimate for the Court on how many occasions?

A Twenty-five or thirty.

Q And when you say in court, in the Probate Division of this St. Louis City Court?

A Yes.

Q Where are you employed?

A I’m self-employed.

Q Do you have admitting privileges at South Pointe Hospital?

A Yes.

Q And this case arises out of an admission at South Pointe Hospital?

A Yes.

MR. FINNEGAN: Your Honor, I’d like to offer the Doctor as an expert witness in the field of psychiatry.

THE COURT: Any objection, Mr. Drazik?

MR. DRAZIK: No, Your Honor. I think he qualifies. I’m not admitting any weight of his testimony, but I think his qualifications that the Court can weigh as it sees fit.

THE COURT: Thank you. You may proceed, Mr. Finnegan.

Q (by Mr. Finnegan) Do you know the respondent, Kathleen Garrett?

A Yes, I do.

Q How do you know her?

A I’ve treated her for several years now.

Q As part of her treatment, do you have a diagnosis of any condition she might have?

A Yes.

Q Specifically does she suffer from any psychiatric illness?

A Yes.

Q What is that?

A Major depressive episodes with psychotic features.

Q What about her history and her presentation on this admission is consistent, in your judgment, with the disease you just mentioned?

A Well, she presented in a very depressed state, very psycho-motor retarded, speaking very slowly. She had suicidal ideation and also she was very delusional.

Q Talking about a couple of aspects of that, you said she had suicidal ideation. What specifically about her, what she said to you or what you observed, brings you to that conclusion?

A Well, she said many times to me that she wanted to end her life.

Q Okay. You also talked about some delusional aspects of the illness. What led you to that conclusion?

A The delusions that she has are primarily of a symptomatic nature. She’s very focused on bodily problems, issues with her mouth. If there’s a little problem, for example, she ruminates about that excessively. Constipation for many, many days. She would continue to ask the same questions over and over again, ten, twenty, thirty times an hour, concerning specific treatments concerning that. And concerns that she had very classic symptomatic types of delusions.

Q Now, in terms of her general health other than or in addition to the psychiatric illness you’ve diagnosed, what is her health like otherwise?

A Well, she is basically in fairly good health right now. However, she does have some significant medical problems. She does have hypertension. She also has mild chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. She had breast cancer and has had surgery for that. And I think that’s the major issues.

Q Is she recently currently being treated or recently treated for the breast cancer?

A Yes.

Q And if you know, how recently?

A I think she had chemotherapy treatment within the past month. I’m not exactly sure when the last time was.

Q Do you know either from discussions with her or information from other doctors that the nature and seriousness of the cancer is currently?

A Well, she has breast cancer so it’s serious and she’s undergoing treatment. So it’s always an issue.

Q Has medicine been prescribed for her psychiatric condition?

A Yes.

Q What medication?

A Well, she’s currently on several different medications. She’s on an anti-depressant called Paxil, anti-anxiety medication Adavan. She’s on Remaran (sic), another anti-depressent. And she’s on Respidal, an anti-psychotic.

Q Okay. Addressing first, just to keep things from becoming too complex, the issues on the twenty-one day detention, do you believe to a reasonable degree of medical certainty that in-patient hospitalization, and specifically at your facility, is the appropriate, least restrictive environment for the care of Ms.-Garrett at the present time?

A Yes.

Q Why is that? Why wouldn’t she be appropriate as an out- patient?

A She’s still, even this morning, she expressed concern about her ability to live at home alone. She told me she was still quite nervous about going home. And she was not quite sure whether she would be able to do well there.

Q What specific concerns do those statements raise in your mind?

A Well, I still believe that she was a suicidal risk. And even though over the past few days she has in fact had fewer suicidal thoughts, I still judge her as a significant risk.

Q So is some part of your concern related to your interpretation of the concerns she has related to this possibility of suicide?

A Yes.

Q Do you believe that her condition and these thoughts outside of your facility, as her condition is now, would represent a likelihood of serious harm to her?

A Yes.

Q If she were to be retained by the Court, would your facility accept responsibility for caring for her during the twenty-one days?

A Yes.

Q And moving into the second aspect, what would your treatment plan be in her case?

A The treatment plan would be electroconvulsive therapy.

Q Let’s talk about that. Do you believe that the medication that she’s currently taking have significantly improved her condition?

A No.

Q Why? What do you think they need to do that they haven’t done?

A Well, number one, she’s still quite depressed and anxious. And secondly, she still does have the delusional component of the illness.

Q Do you believe that there is a strong likelihood that electroconvulsive therapy would significantly improve her condition for a substantial period of time?

A Yes.
Q Why is that?

A Well, with her particular diagnosis of delusional depression, the literature over the years has been quite clear. This is not only the most effective treatment for her particular diagnosis, but also is considered in the field of psychiatry as the treatment of first use for this particular diagnosis.

As you know, ECT in some quarters does not have the best representation. But despite that, psychiatrists in general agree that for depression with psychotic features this is the treatment, the first line treatment of choice.

Q If, hypothetically, we weren’t in the State of Missouri, for example, somewhere else, is it your medical opinion that ECT would have been the first thing you would have tried rather than the last?

A Correct.

Q Since we are here in Missouri though, you’re basing it on the idea that these other medical treatments are not likely to significantly improve her condition?

A I think they’re likely to improve her condition. I think that the medications have improved her condition to a certain extent. I do not believe that her medications will in fact put her in remission, which I think is necessary before she would be safe to go home.
Q And specifically, is it the aspect of suicidality that concerns you?

A Well, certainly that’s a concern as far as the safety issue. But the quality of life issue of course is of great concern too. I think she continues to be very, very anxious and nervous, very depressed and not functioning well. And I have had the opportunity to treat her over the years and I have seen her in much better condition. And I think she should be able to obtain previous levels of efficacy.

Q And in your medical opinion, is there a substantial strong likelihood that the medications would achieve this, even if given a much longer course?

A I don’t believe they would.

Q Okay. What course of ECT are you asking the Court for, over what period of time?

A I’m asking for a maximum of twelve treatments over a four week period.

Q Okay. Do you believe that the respondent will suffer any serious loss of function as a result of these treatments?

A No, I don’t. In fact, I think compared to how she is right now, I would expect improvement in function.

Q Do you know whether she has received ECT in the past?
A Yes, she has.

Q And do you know when the most recent course of treatment was?

A I’m not certain how long ago the last treatment was.

Q She has not received ECT while under your care?

A I treated her at another hospital in the past on several occasions and I don’t recall whether we gave her ECT. I don’t have those medical records available.

Q Would it be accurate if you did, it was voluntary as opposed to having to go through a hearing of this type?

A I don’t recall coming to court before.

Q And just a phrase in the language of the statute, is there any less drastic form of therapy in your medical opinion as likely to result in significant improvement in her condition, assuming ECT is -

A I have to first comment I don’t think it’s drastic, and next, in many ways, it may be safer than the medication she’s taking. But I do not believe there’s anything less drastic.

Q Specifically is there any pharmacological therapy likely to produce a significant improvement in her condition?

A I don’t believe so.
MR. FINNEGAN: That’s all I have, Your Honor.

THE COURT: Mr. Drazik?

MR. DRAZIK: Thank you, Your Honor.


Q Is you were to release Kathleen Garrett today, what are the probabilities that she would commit suicide?

A I think they’re substantial.

Q Would you give me a number?

A No, I cannot.

Q Can you give me a range of numbers?

A Greater than fifty percent, over a period of time.

Q Over what period of time?

A Over a month.

Q And if she remains on the medication, would that probability decrease?

A It’s very difficult to say. I would say that it’s possible over the next several weeks that there may be some slight additional improvement with the medication. But I would have to say slight.

Q What is the probability that electro — if you gave her electroshock therapy, would you describe specifically what you would expect to happen?

A I would expect — are you talking about results or -

Q Results?

A With the results I would expect a drastic reduction in the depressive features, a drastic reduction in the anxiety, and elimination of this symptomatic delusions.

Q What are the side affects of ECT?

A Side affects of ECT are dependent upon how the treatment is administered. But in general, short term memory loss. That’s not uncommon. That probably other than some mild headache on the day of treatment are the two most commonly experienced side affects.

Q Have you had people lose memory as a long standing event?

A Long standing?

Q In other words, loss of memory of their childhood or loss of memory of young adulthood?

A No, I never had that happen.

Q Have you known of anyone else that’s had that happen?

A I’ve heard anecdotal stories, but have not spoken to anyone directly who has experienced that.

Q If you were treating a patient who had electroconvulsive therapy in the past and had thereafter experienced memory loss of distant events, would that effect your treatment of her?

A Well, if someone has had substantial memory problems with ECT in the past, especially if it was the distant past, I would do several things. Number one, I would start the treatments off in the unilateral fashion. There’s two ways to administer ECT. One bilateral and one unilateral. And over the past few years it’s been well demonstrated that unilateral treatment substantially reduces the probability of any type of memory problem from the treatment.

Also I would make sure that the perimeters for administering the treatment were at the lowest possible in order to produce an effective treatment, but at the same time not to over treat where again you might have problems with memory.

Q Do you know whether or not Kathleen has had that experience in the past where she’s lost memory?

A I believe her son mentioned that has been the case.

Q When you mention unilateral, what do you mean by that?

A Well, with the way that ECT has been done in the past, there was typically an electrode placed on each temple, right and left. And unilateral is an electrode placed on the nondominent hemisphere, typically the right side, and then on the more of the crown of the head. And when that occurs, the evidence is quite remarkable on the decreased problems with memory loss.

Q In other words, you would see the memory loss if it were going to occur?

A Well, if the memory loss were to occur there it would be substantially less than compared to doing it the other way.

Q Would you test the person after the initial unilateral treatment to see if she was experiencing memory loss?

A Well, we always evaluate the patient on the day of and then throughout really the course of the treatment. That’s one of the things that the nursing staff from the hospital does, as well as the treating physician.

Q Have you known any other side affects of electroconvulsive therapy?

A I mentioned headache, which is fairly common. Usually that’s treated well with just Tylenol. Other than that, I have not had any other serious types of side affects noted.

Q Are there other — is there any current literature critical on electroshock therapy?

A From what source?

Q From either the medical or psychological field?

A Well, from the medical source, medical journals, I have not seen anything critical of ECT. As a matter of fact, there’s actually a resurgence over the past few years and it’s being used much more readily throughout the country. And the popular literature there are groups that are anti-psychiatry in general that have mounted campaigns against ECT as well as psychiatric medication in general.

Q What about from the therapy communities, are there any discussions on that, psychologists?

A Psychologists? It depends on the psychologist you talk to. Psychologists familiar with treating seriously mentally ill patients and familiar with the technique, they see the benefits. If somebody is not, then of course they only know what was in movies and popular literature.

Q Are there some medical treatments that are universally accepted one time in history and later not universally accepted?

A Absolutely.

Q Because medicine isn’t an exact science?

A That’s correct.

MR. DRAZIK: I have nothing else.

THE COURT: Redirect?

MR. FINNEGAN: No, Your Honor.

THE COURT: Thank you, Doctor. You may step down. Anything further on behalf of the Petitioner?

MR. FINNEGAN: No, Your Honor. That’s the Petitioner’s evidence.

THE COURT: Mr. Drazik, you wish to present evidence on behalf of your client?

MR. DRAZIK: Yes. Mrs. Garrett and Steven Vance, Your Honor.

THE COURT: Who do you wish to call first?

MR. DRAZIK: Mrs. Garrett.

KATHLEEN GARRETT being duly sworn, testified as follows:


THE COURT: Mr. Drazik, you may inquire of your client.

MR. DRAZIK: Thank you, Your Honor.

Q Would you state your name, please?

A Kathleen Garrett.

Q And Ms. Garrett, where do you live?

A 4483 Lindell Boulevard, St. Louis.

Q Are you in the hospital right now?

A Yes, I am.

Q What are you in the hospital for?

A Depression.

Q How long have you had depression?

A For many years.

Q Could you tell the Court how many years?

A I couldn’t exactly tell you. Possibly about forty years.

Q Forty?

A Yeah.

Q You had depression when Steve was a little boy?

A Well, sort of an illness, yeah.

Q Okay. Now, do you want to be given electroshock therapy?

A No.

Q Could you tell the Court why you don’t want to receive it?

A Because I’m afraid I might become senile.

Q And what leads you to believe that?

A Well, my son has read all about it and — but he’s read about it and talked to various people who seem to know.

Q Do you trust your son to help you make a lot of your decisions?

A Yes.

Q But is he making this decision or are you making his decision?

A I’m making the decision.

Q What information has he given you to help you make that decision?

A Well, it kills brain cells. He’s afraid I’ll become senile and need extreme care.

Q Okay. So are you asking the Court to deny the hospital the right to give you electroshock therapy?

A Right.

Q Kathleen, do you have any problem understanding what’s going on today?

A No.

Q You understand that this is a court proceeding and that -

A Right.

Q Okay. And you thought this decision over?

A Yes.

Q And you’ve made your decision?

A Yes.

MR. DRAZIK: I have nothing else.

THE COURT: Mr. Finnegan, questions for Mrs. Garrett?

MR. FINNEGAN: Just a few.


Q Ma’am, when you came into the hospital, did you tell the doctor that you had thought about hurting yourself?

A Yes.

Q Have you had some recently?

A Not recently.

Q When was the last time that you remember talking to the doctor about having those thoughts?

A I guess it was last week I guess.

Q Have you had electroconvulsive therapy in the past?

A Yes.

Q Do you remember when the last time you had them was?

A Many years ago. I don’t remember exactly.

Q More than ten years ago you think?

A More than ten.

Q Could it have been as many as twenty?

A Could have been, but I’m not sure.

MR. FINNEGAN: That’s all I have, Your Honor.

THE COURT: Mr. Drazik?


Q Did the electroshock therapy help you?

A I don’t remember.

Q Did you lose –

A My son says I walked around like a zombie after I had it.

Q Okay.

MR. DRAZIK: I have nothing else.

MR. FINNEGAN: No further questions, Your Honor.

THE COURT: So Mrs. Garrett, you’ve had ECT between ten and twenty years ago, is that correct, ma’am, as best you can recall.

THE WITNESS: I would say probably around that. I’m not sure.

THE COURT: Thank you, ma’am. You may step down. Have a seat with Mr. Drazik. Watch your step, please. Mr. Drazik, you indicated you wish to call Mr. Vance, is that correct?

MR. DRAZIK: Correct, Your Honor.

STEVEN VANCE being duly sworn, testified as follows:


THE COURT: You may inquire, Mr. Drazik.

MR. DRAZIK: Thank you, Your Honor.

Q Would you state your name, please?

A Steven Vance.

Q And where do you live?

A I live at 20 Grandview Drive in Belleville.

Q Are you Kathleen Garrett’s son?

A Yes, I am.

Q How old are you?

A I’m forty-three years old.

Q Are you engaged in a business or occupation?

A In a business.

Q Are you in an occupation?

A I am, yes.

Q What do you do?

A I am a licensed clinical social worker. I work for the City of St. Louis in the Health Department.

Q Could you tell us what your educational background is?

A My educational background is in service, social work, and also business management.

Q You hold any degrees?

A Yes. I have two bachelors and an associate of arts.

Q Have you taken — in your social work background, do you take psychology courses?

A Oh yes.

Q Could you tell the Court how much psychology you’ve taken?

A It’s been quite a few years. I graduated in 181. And so it was just a mixture of social work and psychology. I couldn’t tell you exactly. I know there’s a basic core class, but there’s additional ones. Quite a few classes.

Q Could you tell the Court what you do currently?

A I work — I do pre-imposed test counseling for people. Testing for HIV and I give their test results.

Q So are you in that position because that can be a difficult experience for these people?

A Yes.

Q And are you used to dealing with these perhaps volatile situations in your work?

A Daily.

Q Do you talk with your mother about these things?

A I don’t talk to her about my job. We don’t ever really talk about the job situation.

Q Mr. Vance, I’m handing you what has been marked for identification purposes as Respondent’s Exhibit A. And I’ll ask you if you can tell us what that is?

MR. FINNEGAN: Your Honor, if I may, we will stipulate that there is a durable power of attorney and that the witness is the individual under this power of attorney for the health care of the Respondent should she be incapacitated.

MR. DRAZIK: That’s fine.

THE COURT: Fine. Stipulation is agreeable, gentlemen? So stipulated. Proceed.

Q (by Mr. Drazik) Do you handle things for your mother’s estate?

A I handle everything for my mother.

Q Could you tell the Court some of the things you handle for her?

A I pay her bills for her. I take her grocery shopping. I take her clothes shopping. I handle dealing with the people at the social workers from hospitals who are at the place where she lives, at Cardinal Ritter. I answer her twenty plus phone calls a day. Whenever she calls me I get on the phone and answer phone calls. Whatever problems come up I handle them, including legal problems. I’ve handled everything for her for the last about three years.

Q Does she trust your decision making in her daily life?

A As far as I know she does, yes.

Q Have you had conversations with her about whether she should have electroshock therapy?

A Yes.

Q And what have the conversations been?

A Well, the conversations have not jut been recently. It’s been over the last few years. Because she had always told me she never wanted those again because they made her feel so awful. So she made me promise never to force her to have those. And recently this has come up again and it has come up in other hospitals before, but when I said no, they always said okay. And then this situation that they decided to go against our decision on this.

Q, Have you investigated electroshock therapy?

A I’ve talked about it with various health professionals over the years because she had shock back in the ’70′s and possibly even the early ’80′s And I have talked to people because it has bothered me over the years that she has not been the same since she had the shock treatments years ago. I used to visit her after she had them and back in the ’70′s and early ’80′s And she did not — I was uncomfortable with the way that she lost memory that she’s never been able to regain again. Over the years I’ve talked to people about that and most recently I talked to a nurse at Meramec College whose mother also went through the same situation and I was informed that, there’s a name for which I don’t remember what the name is, but it brings on early dementia or senility to the person who has shock treatments in the past. And when we compared notes, we realized we had the same situation going on and that my mother had the same situation as her mother, that sort of early confusion.

Q So back when she had the shock treatment before, did you take her to the hospital on those occasions?

A No, I was a teenager at the time when she had those the first time and so I would go visit her. A friend or — I wasn’t even driving in those days. I wasn’t old enough to drive. People would take me to see her.

Q You were able to observe her before, immediately before the treatments?

A Oh yes. I visited her regularly. And afterwards. And she didn’t even — I had the impression she didn’t even know who I was.

Q This was after the treatments?

A After the treatments.

Q How about before the treatments?

A She knew. She knew who I was and she seemed fine to me.

Q So is this one visit to the next?

A Right.

Q So the visit before the electroshock therapy she was fine and afterwards describe the difference.

A She would just stare into space and I had the impression she wasn’t able to talk. And she seemed to not know who — really know who I was.

Q Has your mother threatened suicide in the past?

A She’s threatened suicide since I was a small child.

Q Can you tell the Court how many times she’s threatened suicide since you’ve been alive?

A Several hundred.

Q Has she ever attempted suicide?

A Back in the ’70′s she attempted it once I think.

Q How did she attempt it?

A As far as I remember, she drank some car wax.

Q Have there been any attempts since that time?

A I’m not aware of any. As far as I know.

Q Has she ever told you how she was going to commit suicide?

A No.

Q So it was a declaration that she would commit suicide without telling you how she would do it?

A Well, she never really said, “I’m going to kill myself.” She never really said that to me. It was something that she said. She just — something that was more internal. She said she — I would find out afterwards, after she went to the hospital, that she had those feelings, but she never came out to me and said, “I’m going to kill myself.”

Q How did she get to the hospital this time?

A She called an ambulance on herself. I didn’t know about it. And the ambulance came and picked her up. or she may have told somebody. This is the story I got from Cardinal Ritter was that the ambulance carried her out. I don’t know if she called them or they called them. But before the time before, she had called in herself too.

Q In making her decision to refuse electroshock therapy, did you and her fully discuss the things that you’ve testified to the Court today?

A We discussed them not just recently before she was in the hospital, we discussed them in the past.

Q Anything else you discussed other than what we’ve talked about?

A About the shock treatments?

Q With her?

A I’ve just discussed what I’ve heard through different medical people over the years.

Q Is it your judgment that she should not have treatment?

A Right. She’s already lost a lot of memory that she hasn’t regained from previous shock treatments. Back in those years they zapped her good. I can brink up instances in the past that she can’t remember. And they’re important situations. And I feel that if they zapped her one more time, her age and her physical condition, I don’t know what would happen to her.

Back when she had them in the ’70′s and the ’80′s they were saying the same stuff as now. Beneficial, wonderful, help people. We are here today because they didn’t help.

MR. DRAZIK: Okay. I have nothing else.

THE COURT: Mr. Finnegan, questions for Mr. Vance?

MR. FINNEGAN: Just a few, Your Honor.


Q Sir, how long has your mother had cancer?

A At least within the last year she was diagnosed with cancer. I don’t remember what month it was.

Q In your experience of working with people with serious illnesses, have you experienced someone who might have had a depression or none at all to have fairly serious depression after they learned they had a major illness?

A I really have not encountered anybody in my work life dealing with cancer.

Q Well, HIV or whatever, after they learned they had HIV developed depression?

A I haven’t heard that because I don’t usually keep in touch with the clients beyond I transfer them on to case management. The majority of the people that I serve when I’ve seen them afterwards they seem to be doing fine. In fact, quite surprisingly, a lot of people seem to be quite strong in nature that they’re able to deal with it pretty well. I’ve rarely had situations happen where somebody was going to kill themselves. In fact, I’ve never had a situation happen where somebody was going to kill themselves or talk about being depressed. I’m sure it’s not what they wanted. When I saw them afterwards they seemed appreciative of my efforts.

Q You said your mother had threatened over the past years a number of times to hurt herself?

A Not to me personally. I need to specify, she has not said, “I’m going to hurt myself.” From her hospital admissions, which have been quite a few, this is what has come out. But not to me personally. She has not said these things to me.

Q You indicated that other doctors have wanted to do ECT in the past but that hasn’t happened?

A Right. After her initial ones in the ’70′s and the early ’80′s, in the recent years they have -previous doctors have wanted to do those and I said no and they said okay and I gave my reasons why. The reasons why I felt that way. She had already had a lot of memory loss and I don’t want to take the risk with what was left.

Q How long ago was it that one doctor wanted to do it?

A Her last doctor, Doctor Cuellacon (sic), what was about maybe two years ago or something.

MR. FINNEGAN: That’s all I have, Your Honor.

MR. DRAZIK: Nothing else, Your Honor.

THE COURT: Mr. Vance, talking about the ECT and the numerous medications your mother takes now, how do you find her when she’s taking all the medication?

THE WITNESS: Well, my — to be honest with you

THE COURT: That’s what I want.

THE WITNESS: I find that she’s overmedicated. I feel that she becomes immune to medications. I feel that they’ve made quite a problem in that they’re not treating the core problem. It’s just masking it with tape, Bandaids, and I don’t feel medications are benefiting her because it just made her unable to function in society. And I feel like somewhere out there there must be some sort of therapy that would benefit her. I don’t know what it is. I’m not an expert. But I feel that there has to be something out there, whether regression therapy or whatever, has to be something out there to find out the core.

Mom grew up in somewhat of a difficult childhood herself and there has to be something that stems from her past. And if you ask her why she feels the way she does about certain things, it’s because she’s not really able to answer you. I think there’s something hidden deep inside her that has to get to come out.

The medications really, they work for a little while and then they don’t work and they change them and get more and more expensive and change them. It’s kind of a never ending situation. It never ends.

And the situation with this whole — what’s going on now is this is not a new situation. This is something from forty something years and not different than it was when I was a child.

THE COURT: You think that someone makes — your mother makes a suicide threat, you think I should disregard that?

THE WITNESS: No, I’m not saying disregard that. But I think that in the context of what it is, she didn’t harm herself. She knew she — she was told, I don’t know which doctor told her this, when she has those feelings to get herself into the hospital. And when she’s had those feelings, she did do that and she’s done that the last few times when she had the feelings. She checked herself into the hospital. I didn’t check her in. She checked herself in. I think she’s being responsible if she does have the feelings, that’s her way of handling them.

I’m not saying — I think part of it too, my personal opinion is part of it is, there is there is mental illness there, but also I feel part of it is some attention seeking stuff going on there too.

THE COURT: Okay. Mr. Drazik, anything further?

MR. DRAZIK: Nothing further.

THE COURT: Mr. Finnegan?

MR. FINNEGAN: No, Your Honor.

THE COURT: Thank you, Mr. Vance. You may step down. Anything further on behalf of the Respondent?

MR. DRAZIK: No, Your Honor. We would renew our objections on due process grounds that we raised at the beginning. Can they be preserved to the extent of the order and to the, whether it’s issued.

THE COURT: They are preserved. Gentlemen, any comments on the evidence before I rule on this matter?

MR. FINNEGAN: We would respond if there were comments, but otherwise we will submit it on the evidence.

THE COURT: Anything further, Mr. Drazik?

MR. DRAZIK: I think the Court has fully comprehended the evidence. I would state if this woman had cancer and refused the treatment, she would have the absolute right to do so. The mere fact this is a mental disorder that could possibly result in a suicide is no different from any other type of threat for her own life. And it’s our belief she has the right to proceed as she wishes.

Medicine isn’t an exact science. We don’t know exactly what’s going to happen. And somebody has to make that decision. Mrs. Garrett and her son Steven are probably the most qualified considering all the facts. I’m sure Doctor Mofsen is very sincere and does a good job. He’s not the best suited to determine what’s best for Mrs. Garrett. She is.

THE COURT: Any response to that? Let me ask you a question, Mr. Drazik, and I respect your opinion as a respected member of the Bar. So is Mr. Finnegan. I take an oath as a Judge to uphold the laws of the State of Missouri and the laws of the State of Missouri say that if the Petitioner in this type of petition proves certain things, I, as the one who must follow that law, must render a decision based upon that law. How do you respond to that?

MR. DRAZIK: Your Honor, your oath further includes the Constitution of the United States.

THE COURT: That’s true.

MR. DRAZIK: Unfortunately you’re placed in a difficult situation of deciding whether one overrides the other. I would ask you to exercise your legal authority.

THE COURT: Mr. Finnegan, any comment?

MR. FINNEGAN: Brief one, Your Honor. While I don’t disagree with the general comments regarding the ability of a person to determine their own life, to make decisions when they are able to do so about issues involving their health, the analogy to cancer treatment is not well taken because the nature of mental illness often interferes with a person’s ability to recognize significant data and to make appropriate judgment because of the mental illness. And particularly major depression makes a person more disposed to put themselves at risk for various types of things that are at issue here today.

And when a person expresses suicidal thoughts, especially in the context of a recent and incredibly significant medical condition, it would be inadvisable of the Court to take the risk that this is like the previous history of the illness, because there’s a recent intervening event that might make it much more serious that might make these threats more concrete and might make them totally different, even if we were to accept the fact that we were not as serious earlier.

But I will return to what the Court said, which is that this is a constitutional statute, unless the respondent points to case law saying otherwise, and he can’t. The statute — the Court of Appeals on a number of occasions has never said this is to be held unconstitutional.

The Court was correct in saying that if the State proves certain things, that the Court is bound to grant the petition. And I would have to prove those things by far more than convincing evidence.

THE COURT: Mr. Drazik?

MR. DRAZIK: With respect to whether the statute on its face is constitutional, that could possible be. However, it would have to be construed in such a fashion to be constitutional and we don’t believe that the evidence in this case illustrates a situation and the Court should override the right to bodily self determination, the specific facts of this case.

THE COURT: Thank you, gentlemen. I appreciate your comments and your arguments in this matter. And I assume the matter is submitted to me for determination at this point?

MR. FINNEGAN: It is by the Petitioner, Your Honor.

MR. DRAZIK: Yes, Your Honor.

THE COURT: First of all, as to the petition for twenty- one day involuntary detention and treatment, the Court finds the evidence to be clear and convincing that the Respondent does suffer from a mental illness and as a result of that mental illness, Respondent presents a likelihood of serious harm to herself. Therefore, the Court feels that the petition for twenty- one day involuntary detention and treatment should be granted. That the South Pointe Hospital is the appropriate facility to handle her care, will accept her, and is the least restrictive environment. Therefore, the stated petition for twenty-one day involuntary detention and treatment is granted.

As to the petition for the involuntary electroconvulsive therapy, the Court does find as follows: By clear and convincing evidence, that the therapy is necessary, that there is a strong likelihood that the therapy will significantly improve or cure the Respondent’s mental disorder for a substantial period of time without causing her any serious functional harm.

Further the Court finds there’s no less drastic alternative form of therapy which could lead to substantial improvement in the Respondent’s condition. Therefore, the Court authorizes the treating physician to administer the Respondent a series of electroconvulsive treatments not to exceed twelve treatments over a period of four weeks, and to be completed on or before — I will fill in a date in this order. It will be a four week date, assuming additional hospitalization beyond that initial period of involuntary detention is either voluntary or court ordered.

That will be the order of the Court. Therefore, as stated, both petitions for involuntary detention and treatment and involuntary electroconvulsive therapy are granted.

Mr. Drazik, I don’t know what your intentions are, but just a word of procedure. If you wish to appeal this decision, do not go through the normal appeal procedure. Go by way of writ.

MR. DRAZIK: I would ask that the Court — I don’t know. There’s no evidence on it that the Court could delay the treatments for some period of time, so I would consulting with my clients and see if they wish to take extraordinary remedy.

MR. FINNEGAN: Mr. Finnegan, would you do the Court a favor and confer with the doctor and see how long we can delay this course of treatment within reason to give the respondent an opportunity –

MR. FINNEGAN: We’ve already discussed that subject somewhat. Just in the sense of less drastic alternative, I think the only concern the doctor would have, I will ask him, is that the detention is only twenty-one days and if we delay starting treatment beyond three or four days, we’re going to be in a situation where after five or six treatments, the detention is going to expire.

THE COURT: Mr. Drazik, how about three days?

MR. DRAZIK: I think I’m in a position where I may not have a choice, Your Honor.

THE COURT: I don’t think I have one either.

MR. DRAZIK: I understand.

THE COURT: You know, the writ department of the Court of Appeals is always open.

MR. DRAZIK: I know.

THE COURT: Not making light of it, but you know, that’s the appropriate way to handle this on an expedited basis.

MR. DRAZIK: We’ve discussed it a little bit and we’ll discuss it further.


THE COURT: Then the treatment will be delayed from today, is that meeting the doctor’s concerns?

MR. FINNEGAN: We would assume that unless we receive notification prior to Friday, that they won’t be filing.

THE COURT: Would that be acceptable?

MR. DRAZIK: Friday by five p.m.

THE COURT: Today is over. Wednesday, Thursday, Friday would be thirty days.

MR. FINNEGAN: Your Honor, if we were able to begin Monday morning?

THE COURT: If we have not received notice by five p.m. Friday, would that be acceptable?

MR. FINNEGAN: That’s what I’m saying. We would say we won’t do anything on Friday, but if we have not received it by Friday afternoon, the Court has not received notice by Friday afternoon, we would proceed on Monday.

WHEREUPON discussions were held off the record after which the following was held:

THE COURT: This matter is concluded.




The hearing of Paul Henri Thomas continues today. It may be the last day of the hearing. According to court testimony Paul has already received 40 involuntary electroshocks against his expressed wishes at Pilgrim State Psychiatric Center in New York. The judge may order another series of forced shocks.

For details and news updates about Paul’s struggle see:


Twenty-five-year-old Adam Szyszko is also struggling to resist his forced electroshock at Pilgrim. Adam’s sister, Anna, said his spirits are stronger, he wants to get out of Pilgrim, and he is more active in his resistance. In Adam’s case, the Temporary Restraining Order — agreed to by four judges — is sticking. Adam’s hearing on forced electroshock is scheduled for Thurs., March 29, 2001, slated for 10 am though it’s the second item on the docket so it may be a little later. Recommended time to be there is 9:30 am. The hearing will be on the first floor of Brooklyn’s Appellate Division 2nd Dept., at 45 Monroe Pl., Brooklyn, NY, USA.


Anna Szyszko, Adam’s sister, makes this public statement via Support Coalition International:

“Adam has been in Pilgrim six months now, locked up like a criminal. He hasn’t received any treatment because the hospital has nothing else to offer but ECT, yet they are not willing to release him into the hands of the family and an experienced psychologist who is willing to treat Adam with psychotherapy. It seems like it’s not About Adam but about power for Pilgrim State. The appeal is scheduled for March 29th. Anyone who is able to attend is welcome.”

Besides Adam and Paul, at least two others inside Pilgrim Psychiatric Center are also taking legal action to try to stop forced electroshock against their wishes.

Coercion, fraud and force in the administration of electroshock are a growing state-wide pattern in facilities run by New York Office of Mental Health.

See for updates.

Adam wins a stay!

Only days before Christmas, 25-year-old Adam Szyszko received forced electroshock. His family had repeatedly told officials at Pilgrim State Hospital that they opposed the treatment as well.

Adam’s sister Anna said that she spoke with one of the lead doctors the day before his first shock, and that the doctor gave absolutely no indication that they would proceed.

“It was all out of the blue,” Anna said. “They called my parents today and told them they would be doing it this morning. They’re playing some kind of game. It’s sneaky, and it’s unethical.”

An attorney on the case had found grounds for a stay, but the paperwork couldn’t be filed for two more days.

Anna said the hospital knew that this stay attempt was coming.

“They are set in doing what they’re going to do,” she said, sobbing. “They don’t care about Adam.”

She said that Adam has been doing so much better that there was even talk of a discharge. Anna attempted to get a meeting with the treatment team, but says they ignored her requests.

Adam was shocked again, but two days before Christmas, a judge issued a temporary stay until December 29. That prevented the hospital from giving him any further treatments against his will.

On January 8, 2001, I was excited to issue this brief news report:

“Concerning Adam Szyszko, the 25-year-old man being forcibly shocked at Long Island’s Pilgrim Psychiatric Center:

The judges ruled in Adam’s case today: He has won a stay pending appeal on March 29!!

This is excellent news – Adam is safe (so to speak) at least through that date.

On March 29, there will be an appeal hearing, which will only be oral arguments and more paperwork battles. No witnesses testify. It’s another battle to fight, but I’m feeling more hopeful.”

Score one for the good guys today!

Another stay issued September 17, 2001

Yesterday (9/17/01) an interim stay, pending decision on motion for leave to appeal, was granted by Court of Appeals Judge Victoria A. Graffeo in the case of Adam S. This means that Pilgrim Psychiatric Center is forbidden from administering electroshock to Adam S. until after the highest New York Supreme Court in Albany decides whether to hear Adam’s appeal of the Brooklyn Appeals Court’s decision, which was not in Adam’s favor.

The decision on motion for leave to appeal is calendared for September 26th, which means the Court will begin its review on that date. It is likely that the Court will take two weeks or more before rendering a decision. If the Court decides to give permission to appeal, it is likely that the stay will be extended an additional four to six months until the appeal is heard.

Thus, Adam is protected by court order from receiving electroshock until, at the very earliest, September 26. Due to the speed with which the court system works, it is quite likely that this protection will last weeks or months beyond that date.

Update on Paul Henri Thomas

from Support Coalition International

February 20, 2001 – feel free to copy to others


Today has been a real roller coaster for Paul Henri Thomas and his supporters.

Even though Paul has a new lawyer who has managed to get him a hearing about his forced shocks (a week from Friday), Pilgrim Psychiatric planned to go ahead with another forced electroshock TOMORROW morning.

His lawyers tried to get a restraining order, but time was running out… The shock was scheduled for 8 am tomorrow, the courts open at 9 am.

Pilgrim claimed they were just doing what was “clinically indicated.” So the lawyers argued that they were trying to get an outside psychiatrist to see Paul who may say that the forced shock would harm him clinically in terms of his ability to communicate, including in court….

So Pilgrim director “gave his word” that the forced shock would be held off until perhaps Friday. Of course, we don’t trust the director of Pilgrim… but apparently there may be a few day reprieve from the torture.

Paul was extremely relieved a few hours ago when he heard the word “cancelled.” From what we can tell, this would been about his 41st or 51st or even 71st forced shock during these last two years, depending on how one counts the various court orders (according to reports, his lawyers will be more accurately counting the total number of forced shocks he’s had so far after the flurry of court filings settles down).

AT BOTTOM of this update is a note Paul wrote for YOU – and the rest of the world – that was smuggled out yesterday.

April 1, 2001 will be Paul’s SECOND YEAR locked up at Pilgrim, with only a few days off hear and there for a home visit.

Meanwhile, today, the legislative campaign is paying off… A staff person for a State Senator who is on the “mental health committee” on the legislature called and expressed concern. They have contacted Office of Mental Health requesting full information about the policy and use of forced shock within OMH. Another office had already called. KEEP IT UP!

Yesterday, Paul had written the following note and asked that it be transmitted far and wide. What he refers to has his “chemical menu” is an incredible list of psychiatric drugs he is being forced to take — He’s prescribed to daily take psychiatric drugs such as Mellaril, Navane Artane, Depakote, Tegretol and Klonopin — that’s every day – plus several other drugs “as needed.” We count a total of THIRTEEN potential psychiatric drugs Paul could be given, based on his prescription!


Pilgrim Psychiatric Center, West Brentwood, NY, USA

February 19, 2001

I, Paul Henry(i) Thomas, leader of the student strike of December 3, 1980 at Port au Prince, Haiti, need help from as many as possible in the world immediately. I need international lawyers as well as much financial support as possible. My intensive and arbitrary electroshocks and chemical menus must stop right now. I claim JUSTICE!

I am fluent in four languages: Haitian, Creole, French, English, Spanish.

(631) 435-9447
(631) 435-9448

The above was a letter from Paul, smuggled out yesterday.

This update provided to you by Support Coalition International.

For more background on the forced electroshock of Paul — including a photo of Paul and Pilgrim Psychiatric Center, plus a poem and another letter by Paul go to:



DATE: MARCH 23, 2001

Contact: Juli Lawrence
(number upon request)

Attorneys for Paul Henri Thomas, the New York man currently facing forced electroshock treatments, today filed a complaint in US District Court, Eastern District, in Central Islip, New York charging that Thomas’ First Amendment rights have been continually violated.

The complaint asks for a declaratory judgement that this is a violation of his rights, an injunction against officials to stop limitations against his ability to write and exchange information as well as an injunction against supervised visitation. The complaint also asks for compensatory and punitive monetary damages.

A source close to the case said that officials at Pilgrim Psychiatric Center are acting “with retaliation in mind” by blocking 49-year-old Thomas from freely speaking with supporters and friends. Pilgrim officials also want to assess his competency and review everything he writes, deciding whether or not he is capable of releasing information to the public and media.

“He’s not allowed to sign anything,” said the source. “He’s been trying to get his message out publicly, so they’re saying he isn’t competent to make any decisions. It’s been very oppressive.”

All visits with Thomas are now fully supervised, preventing him from having private visits or from giving any information about what he’s experiencing inside Pilgrim. The one-on-one supervision is never used, the source said, except in a context of dangerousness.

“They continually challenge the visitors and get in their faces,” the source added. “This places severe limits on his right to speak out as well as his right to associate with others who share his views and might help. They want to stop any further information from getting out because officials from OMH (Office of Mental Health) are screwing up.”

“It’s a classic retaliation,” the source said, adding that OMH officials have been receiving inquiries from senators and state assemblymen.

“They don’t want to take the heat for anything, and they’re doing anything to break Paul’s will and give him the shock treatments. It’s a classic First Amendment violation and retaliation.”

The complaint names Pilgrim Executive Director Alan Weinstock, Clinical Director Pamela Weinberg, Associate Medical Director Bob Kalani, and Andre Azemar, treating psychiatrist.

Paul Henri Thomas, an American citizen originally from Haiti, has received up to 60 shocks over the past two years.

Extensive media coverage and outraged rights activists have brought heavy pressure on New York’s Office of Mental Health officials. Many have questioned officials’ claims that Thomas was competent enough to sign consent forms, yet incompetent the moment he began to refuse the controversial treatments.

An international campaign on the Internet has brought more attention to this case.

For the past two weeks, hearings have been held in the New York State Supreme Court in front of Justice W. Bromley Hall to determine whether Thomas has the competency to say no to electroshock treatments. A temporary restraining order currently prohibits the hospital from performing any treatments. This restraining order is being reviewed by four justices of the appellate division who will decide whether or not to extend the stay until the end of the state Supreme Court proceedings.

For ideas on contacting New York elected officials, go to

New York Office of Mental Health insider BLOWS THE WHISTLE!!!

New York Office of Mental Health insider BLOWS THE WHISTLE!!! DENDRITE — February 22, 2001 COPY and POST to appropriate places on and off Internet! NEWS ALERT: human rights and “mental health system.” A free project of Support Coalition International. email:





WEST BRENTWOOD, NEW YORK: Paul Henri Thomas just phoned the Support Coalition International office a few minutes ago with surprise news that is now confirmed by grassroots advocates in NY State, and Paul’s attorneys.

Pilgrim Psychiatric Center plans to give Paul another involuntary forced electroshock, over his expressed wishes, tomorrow, in this state facility not far from New York City.

Paul is a 49-year-old black human rights activist, who has been active in the psychiatric survivors movement.

Paul has already had several dozen forced electroshocks, including earlier this month on February 9 and 12, 2001. Paul has been locked up for nearly two years!

Paul now has new attorneys fighting for him, and they did secure a court date for Friday, March 2, 2001, one week from tomorrow, to try to stop further forced electroshocks.

Pilgrim Psychiatric Center promised to suspend his forced electroshocks so he could prepare for his hearing a week from tomorrow. His lawyers accepted the verbal agreement in good faith.

But in a surprise move, Pilgrim Executive Director Alan Weinstock decided to cave in to his medical staff. Weinstock agreed to another forced electroshock *before* Paul has even had his day in court!


Paul’s attorneys are desperately trying to file a temporary restraining order, but court doesn’t open until 9 am tomorrow.

This kind of threat is emotionally harmful.

Paul told us just now, “This is extremely strange in the context of subtle psychological torture. Do whatever is possible to stop it.”

Paul has been told how hundreds of you are now championing his freedom, and contacting New York elected officials. The offices of several elected officials have said they will investigate.

Paul said, “Thank you, I appreciate it. It’s strange that some people [at Pilgrim and OMH] are not embarrassed at all.”

There is now a “PAUL CAMPAIGN SITE” on the Support Coalition International web site, where you can see the latest alerts, photos of Paul and Pilgrim Psychiatric Center, Paul’s poem, smuggled out notes, and the list of 13 drug Paul is prescribed — many of them powerful forced psychiatric drugs.




Please go to the original alert on Paul on Feb. 13, 2001, and e-mail elected officials there. If you’ve already e-mailed them, please E-MAIL THEM AGAIN. Here’s the link:

This is at the request of the grassroots group Paul belongs to, “Long Island Consumer/Survivors/Ex-Patients Coalition.”

(Please note a few of the e-mail addresses of NY elected officials inside that alert may bounce. We are editing that list, adding others, and the new list should be included as a link inside the above alert in just a few minutes.)

Also note at the bottom of that alert are other actions you can take, including “zapping back” by making civil calls to internal phone numbers of staff within the Office of Mental Health:

An anonymous mental health professional inside the Office of Mental Health has called to say that electroshock is widespread within OMH, including coerced and forced electroshock. This professional has seen it himself.

Another OMH official anonymously contacted us to say that these alerts are *working* that hundreds are e-mailing, and elected officials are contacting them. DON’T QUIT! REDOUBLE YOUR EFFORTS! KEEP IT UP!


The author Thomas Szasz encourages you to break the mainstream media silence about forced shock in the USA!

For example, you can contact the _New York Times_ and their writers and editors by following instructions on this past alert:

Please also contact other media, and write letters to the editor.


Listen to the national radio show “Natural Living with Gary Null” on Monday, February 26, 2001. David Oaks, director of Support Coalition International, will be focusing on global forced psychiatry, especially Paul’s forced electroshock.

The Gary Null show is available as a “regular” radio show in selected radio stations in Calif, District of Columbia, Indiana, Maine, NY, ND, OK, VT, Virginia, State of Washington, and Wisc.

The show is broadcast at different times (such as at noon eastern time on WBAI in New York City). For more info:

The show is also broadcast on the Internet:


In just one week after Support Coalition’s original alert, several offices for New York State elected officials say they will investigate forced electroshock. KEEP UP THE PRESSURE!

You will be joining with many others — together! Paul — and all of us — are counting on you!

Below is a link to an alert especially for NEW YORK STATE RESIDENTS.

Anyone can follow these directions from anywhere in the world. Following these easy steps, you can personally get civil messages to many New York State elected officials and their staff — by phone, fax, mail, etc. Keep it up. Every New York State resident has *five* elected state and federal officials.


Use mutual support, the engine of social change in the psychiatric human rights movement! How? You can….

BUDDY UP WITH OUT OF STATE FOLKS! If you are out of state, ask people inside New York State if you can help them do their outreach — you can compose messages for them to e-mail and fax, etc. You can help phone for them. You can follow-up to ask if they received a response. Elected officials will often *only* answer inquiries from constituents in their district. Keep it up!


You can now join, donate and renew with Support Coalition International by VISA/MasterCard via a secure web server: and click on PARTICIPATE.

To contact or join Support Coalition International other ways: Phone 9 am to 5 pm Pacific Time at (541) 345-9106. Or you can join toll free at 1-877-MAD-PRIDE (623-7743). Or fax at any time to (541) 345-3737. Or write to: Support Coalition; PO Box 11284; Eugene, OR 97440 USA. Or e-mail: Donations tax deductible.

This DENDRITE ALERT IS BROUGHT TO YOU FREE BY SUPPORT COALITION INTERNATIONAL. DENDRITE is a one-way *occasional* e-mail list, so you do *NOT* get too much e-mail this way.

*** BRANCH LIKE DENDRITES DO *** Copy and forward this alert to appropriate places on and off the Internet, just as your brain uses your tree-like dendrites to network billions of neurons. Thousands of interested people are the first to receive this. Many re-distribute it and take action. Disclaimer: WWW.MINDFREEDOM.ORG DENDRITE is not affiliated with — and not to be confused with — any other entity, such as “DENDRITE FOREST” or their publications.

Support Coalition International is a totally independent non-profit federation of nearly 100 groups in 14 countries united to win human rights and alternatives in the “mental health system.” SCI is open to the public, and led by psychiatric survivors. SCI receives no funding from the psychiatric drug industry, the “mental health system” or the government.

NOTE: Just getting this human rights alert e-mail does *not* necessarily mean you are already an SCI member. DENDRITE is a free public e-mail alert list. _Dendron News_ is Support Coalition’s newsjournal for members. Not sure you’re a current member? Ask

You can get DENDRITE e-mail human rights alerts *free*:

To get free DENDRITE alerts, simply e-mail to:

with these two words only in body of message: subscribe dendrite

To stop receiving these human rights alerts, e-mail to:

with these two words only in body of message: unsubscribe dendrite



Thursday, March 29 the Appellate Division will hear oral argument in Matter of Adam S. The case is scheduled for approximately 10 AM at the 45 Monroe Place courthouse in Brooklyn. Twenty-five year old Adam Szyszko is appealing an order authorizing Pilgrim State Psychiatric Center to involuntarily administer up to twenty electroconvulsive shock treatments. Pilgrim psychiatrists shocked Adam twice before a stay was obtained by his attorney Kim Darrow of Mental Hygiene Legal Services Second Department. Adam’s sister, Anna Szyszko, will be available to speak with the media following the hearing. At 11:30 she will hold a press conference outside the courthouse, together with representatives of Disabled In Action, Network Against Forced Electroshock, Brooklyn Mental Hygiene Court Monitors Project and other disability and human rights activists.

“This whole thing is not about Adam but about power for Pilgrim State Hospital,” said Anna Szyszko. “How dare they prevent us from trying treatments that have helped so many people just because they don’t offer them in their facility and insist on forcing Adam to undergo a procedure that does more harm than good -against his and his family’s wishes?” When asked for comment, Bill Brooks, Supervising Attorney of the Mental Disability Law Clinic at Touro Law Center said: “When psychiatrists want to treat, they will frequently take steps to do so regardless of whether the treatment conforms with the legal rights of patients.”

“This is not just one case,” remarked Connie Lesold of the Brooklyn Mental Hygiene Court Monitors Project, who has been following Matter of Paul Henry Thomas. “Pilgrim is openly using electroshock to stun disabled people into submission.” Nadina LaSpina of Disabled In Action added: “Running 150 volts of electricity through someone’s brain against his will is a crime against humanity.”


April 20:
Justice Bromley Hall issued the order in Mr. Thomas’ case today, granting authorization to Pilgrim Psychiatric Center to administer 40 additional electroshocks, but staying the order so that it is not effective until 5 PM on Wednesday, April 25. Efforts by the State Attorney General’s office to make the order effective immediately were not successful. Mr. Thomas’ attorneys from Mental Hygiene Legal service intend to seek an extension of the stay from the Appellate Division on Monday, to prevent Mr. Thomas from being shocked during the appeals process. The appeals process is likely to take about two months.

April 24:
Today, attorneys from Mental Hygiene Legal Service presented over 90 pages of papers, including hearing transcripts, to the Appellate Division as part of their effort to obtain a stay pending appeal for Paul Thomas. The papers were reviewed by a judge from the Appellate Division, who granted a temporary restraining order (TRO) returnable on April 30th. After April 30th, a four judge panel will review the arguments made by each side, and reach a decision about granting a stay pending appeal. If the stay pending appeal is granted by the four judge panel, Pilgrim Psychiatric Center will be prohibited from shocking Mr. Thomas until after the appeals process is complete. Today’s decision protects Mr. Thomas from receiving electroshock until at the earliest, the beginning of May, after the four judge panel reaches a decision.

May 2:
Paul Henri Thomas and Adam Szyszko have won stays pending appeal, through June 26.


NEWS RELEASE — February 23, 2001





Support Coalition International has received an anonymous message from a source known to be a long-time mental health professional who works within the New York Office of Mental Health (NY OMH). This individual has worked in OMH for about a decade.

This mental health professional warns that the use of electroshock has spread rapidly within state facilities run by the NY OMH. The use of cajoling, gifts, coercion and force are being used to push shock.

Several other anonymous individuals working in or with the NY OMH have also confirmed this information with Support Coalition International.

The mental health professional read Support Coalition’s alerts, on this web page:

The alerts encourage elected officials to ask three questions of the New York Office of Mental Health.

This mental health professional encourages people to ask three ADDITIONAL questions. (Note: Please note that while some attorneys at Mental Hygiene Legal Services have provided shoddy representations, others are providing far more aggressive and professional services.)


I would add a few more questions as follows: >>>>


D. Is it true that medical staff of OMH facilities have begun to use subtle coercion and bribes of coffee, special food that a patient would not normally receive, implied threats e.g., if you agree to E.C.T. OR take this particular drug, we’ll be able to discharge you sooner… with patients who do not possess the rational faculties to make a reasoned decision regarding the consequences of agreeing to such a bribe? And, if this is routinely practiced in OMH facilities, is this not a violation of the law regarding patient’s rights and a violation of their constitutional rights?

E. Is it true that medical staff in OMH facilities, especially in the four OMH forensic hospitals, routinely go to court when they know a judge will rubber stamp a decision to medicate or use forced ECT over the patients objection… with no strong objection from the patient’s legal representative? Do not the Supreme Court Judges hearing Mental Health cases look upon their jobs as less critical and more demeaning, as they have to be heard at the hospital… so that they have to travel to the hospital. And in that capacity, do they not rubber stamp cases, especially medication over objection cases… because the MHLS lacks the budget to hire the numbers of quality expert witnesses that would be needed to balance the patients side out in court?

F. Is it true that the Mental Hygiene Legal Service (MHLS), the group of attorneys who are designated to represent OMH patients in court, will not fully represent the interests of their clients, as they are legally mandated to do, in circumstances where they do not want to anger the particular psychiatrist, clinical director or psychologist, as they routinely see them in court on other cases and want to maintain a collegial relationship rather than create an adversarial situation (which would be in the best interest of their client e.g., to create a strong adversarial situation in any particular case being heard) (especially in smaller facilities like forensic hospitals). The OMH patient’s constitutional rights are therefore severely infringed upon in such practices. And is it also true that MHLS is understaffed (by being under-budgeted) in OMH facilities with the bottom line that they do not have the time or energy to fully represent all their clients?

For more information:

David Oaks, Director
Support Coalition International
454 Willamette, Suite 216
PO Boax 11284
Eugene, OR 97440-3484 USA

general info:
phone: (541) 345-9106
toll free: 1-877-MAD-PRIDE
fax: (541) 345-3737
Support Coalition International is a non-profit federation of grassroots groups in 14 countries winning human rights and alternatives for people labeled with mental disabilities.




The American press is giving much more coverage to a Chinese activist than the forced shocks that are occuring on their own soil.

You can help






WEST BRENTWOOD, NEW YORK: Yes, forced electroshock against the expressed wishes of the subject is a fact of life in the USA, in 2001. And it’s happening again at Pilgrim Psychiatric Center, one of New York State’s major psychiatric facilities.

Yesterday, the 49-year-old Paul Henri Thomas had still another forced electroshock. His psychiatrist applied electrodes to Thomas’ temples and gave him one more in a series of involuntary electroshocks against Thomas’s fervent objections.

Electroshock — also known as electroconvulsive therapy or ECT — sends a powerful electrical current through the brain of the subject.

How is forced electroshock possible in this day and age? Technically, it’s legal under New York State law using a court order that is easy to obtain. An attorney familiar with the New York Office of Mental Health (OMH) said that forced electroshock is “fairly routine” in the state, paid for by unknowing taxpayers.

The difference this time is that Thomas is part of a movement.

Thomas is dignified, well-read and especially moving in his resistance to shock. He is a proud African American member of the “Consumer/Survivor/Ex-Patient Coalition” of New York State, which is part of the international mental health consumer/psychiatric survivors human rights movement. This “C/S/X Coalition” has voted to ask everyone — inside or outside New York State — to contact New York State elected officials to investigate OMH forced electroshock. (An easy way for you to e-mail these legislators is toward the BOTTOM of this alert.)


Here are a few edited excerpts directly from the words of Paul Henri Thomas from inside Pilgrim Psychiatric Center. We asked Thomas how he was able to survive so many forced electroshocks, and still stay so strong, to keep the faith?


by Paul Henri Thomas

I am currently undergoing forced electroshock treatment. But I would not call this electroshock ‘treatment.’ It is not medical.

The forced electroshock is horrible. It is horrible. Maybe God himself or herself allowed me to hold onto my faith. This torture and traumatization is not for what I did wrong. I am being tortured because I devoted myself to helping people as much as possible.

I am aware that to obtain progress for humanity we have to suffer and endure. We have to absorb these things. Other people ask me whether I think my life is miserable because I receive forced electroshock. No. The people doing this to me are miserable. I have my pride and self respect.

I am strong. But no human being is invincible.

Please, please do whatever is possible to stop their Machiavellianism. This is an arbitrary process of court hearings and submitting me to a ‘court order’ of electroshock treatment.

Do something, please! I need my total freedom out of this center. I have all the rights of a respectable human being and all his duties.

I thank you a lot. I ask God to bless you in anticipation of your helping me in my torture and traumatization. God bless you. Do whatever is possible!


Sherry Taub, a member of the C/S/X Coalition, has visited Paul recently. She said this about his forced electroshock: “It’s terrifying. I have a psychiatric diagnosis and I’m frightened about what that could mean. You can be stripped of any semblance of human rights. There’s no consideration of you as a human being. This is harmful and torturous to Paul. Any rational human being would accept his understanding of this. This is not helping people. It’s doing him harm.”

In a recent speech in front of OMH Commission James L. Stone, Sherry said, “Wherever people stand on ECT itself, everyone that I’ve spoken with agrees it should not be *forced* on anyone. Everyone that I’ve spoken with agrees that this is a clear violation of human rights. But it *is* happening.”

Like everyone who has spoken with Paul, Sherry is especially impressed by him as a person. “Paul actually comforts *us* about his forced electroshock when we feel frustrated. He has a background as an activist. He was part of the student human rights movement when he lived in Haiti.” Paul moved to the USA in 1982 and became a US citizen. He still speaks English with a Creole accent.

George Ebert of New York’s Mental Patients Liberation Alliance has also been supporting Paul. George said, “I met Paul three weeks ago. I’m amazed his thinking is so clear. His thinking is clearer than mine. In every conversation I am learning from him. He speaks four languages. I’m very concerned about what the Office of Mental Health might do. We’ve warned OMH that the Alliance will do anything to call attention to this. I’ve been through forced electroshock myself. This is scary for me. Paul is in a lot better ‘mental health’ than I am. I feel like I could be next.”

Ironically, one of the alleged reasons Paul is being held is that he continues to have a “delusion” that he is inside a prison. Activists like George and Sherry agree — Paul *is* in a prison. It’s no delusion.

Movement advocates have obtained public attorneys to help Paul zap back. His lawyers demanded a hearing this Friday, Feb. 16, at the trial level. Advocates are concerned they will be illegally denied admittance because the hearing will be held inside a room built inside Pilgrim Psychiatric Center.

Paul Henri Thomas is not the only person who has won public attention while being forcibly shocked at Pilgrim Psychiatric Center. Two months ago, a similar alert went out about 25-year-old Adam Szyszko, who also was receiving forced electroshock:

Since that alert, Adam’s attorneys convinced four judges to grant a full stay until a hearing on March 29 in the appellate division in Brooklyn.

Hopefully, Paul’s attorneys will also win this Friday. But no matter what, the New York Office of Mental Health must be investigated for its involuntary electroshock. Otherwise, many more people besides Paul and Adam will receive forced electroshock.

OMH strategy is to give the public and media the “silent treatment” about forced electroshock. But there’s one group of people OMH has to respond to: The New York State elected officials who have the power to cut OMH funding.



E-mail to New York State elected officials, today!

COPY AND PASTE the e-mail addresses below this sample message. Please cut and paste the e-mail addresses into the “bcc” section of your e-mail. It’s helpful to use the “bcc” section, because there are so many e-mail addresses. By using “bcc” the recipients won’t be inconvenienced by a big “header” at the top of their e-mail.


Please investigate forced electroshock by the New York Office of Mental Health! Stop the forced electroshock of Paul Henri Thomas and Adam Szyszko!

I request that you contact the New York Office of Mental Health (OMH) and ask these questions:

1. Is it true there are instances of involuntary electroshock against the expressed wishes of the client, inside New York State psychiatric facilities?

2. If OMH admits it does forced electroshock, how many people receive it each year? Who keeps track?

3. What is OMH’s policy about involuntary electroshock? And how does this policy mesh with OMH’s stated policy of “consumer empowerment”?

The contact information for the New York Commissioner of the Office of Mental Health is:

OMH Commissioner James L. Stone, MSW, CSW
New York State Office of Mental Health
44 Holland Avenue
Albany, New York 12229

Telephone: (518) 474-4403
Fax: (518) 474-2149
While I understand OMH cannot comment about a particular client due to confidentiality, these are reasonable policy questions that OMH can and should answer. I look forward to hearing the results of your inquiry with OMH.

Thank you.

[Your name]
[Your contact information]




Phone, fax, e-mail and/or write to OMH! Please stay *civil*!

The contact information for the OMH Commissioner is inside the “sample message” above.

You can also call *dozens* of other internal phone numbers directly inside OMH at the below web site, to educate OMH employees’ and their voice mail!


Broadcast this to all *appropriate* places on and off the Internet, including friends, colleagues, relevant e-mail lists, newsgroups, etc. Please especially forward this to anyone you know in New York State! The corporate media is again ignoring this very real story, so e-mail this to all media, especially in New York State.


Please directly and personally e-mail, phone, fax, write and/or visit the offices for both the New York State Assembly Member and your State Senator who represent *you*. They know that every vote counts.

You can use the sample message above.

If at all possible, please follow-up! GET TO KNOW the names of one or two staff people who work in your home district office and/or the Albany office.

Politely request that this staff person directly contact the Office of Mental Health, with your reasonable constituent inquiry. PLEASE FOLLOW-UP with this staff person to find out the results. Ask for a full investigation! Keep Support Coalition in touch with your progress at

You can locate your State Senator in most cases by going to the below web site, click on “Senators,” and use the map or zip code locator.

If you know your Assembly Member’s name, you can look up their contact information on this web site:

If you have any trouble finding out who your State Assembly Member or State Senator is, simply inquire with your local County elections office, listed in the government section of your phone book.

And *everyone* in New York State (or outside) can contact the US Senators from New York State, in both their D.C. offices, and their nearest office to you.

For contact information on US Senators from New York:

AS PAUL SAYS, “I thank you a lot. God bless you. Do whatever is possible!”


You can now join, donate and renew with Support Coalition International by VISA/MasterCard via a secure web server: and click on PARTICIPATE.

To contact or join Support Coalition International other ways: Phone 9 am to 5 pm Pacific Time at (541) 345-9106. Or you can join toll free at 1-877-MAD-PRIDE (623-7743). Or fax at any time to (541) 345-3737. Or write to: Support Coalition; PO Box 11284; Eugene, OR 97440 USA. Or e-mail: Donations tax deductible.

This DENDRITE ALERT IS BROUGHT TO YOU FREE BY SUPPORT COALITION INTERNATIONAL. DENDRITE is a one-way *occasional* e-mail list, so you do *NOT* get too much e-mail this way.

UPDATE: One week after one of these alerts went out to stop a psychiatric institution from hounding postal worker Arnie Smith to pay for his own forced human rights abuses, Arnie won!

*** BRANCH LIKE DENDRITES DO *** Copy and forward this alert to appropriate places on and off the Internet, just as your brain uses your tree-like dendrites to network billions of neurons. Thousands of interested people are the first to receive this. Many re-distribute it and take action. Disclaimer: WWW.MINDFREEDOM.ORG DENDRITE is not affiliated with — and not to be confused with — any other entity, such as “DENDRITE FOREST” or their publications.

Support Coalition International is a totally independent non-profit federation of nearly 100 groups in 14 countries united to win human rights and alternatives in the “mental health system.” SCI is open to the public, and led by psychiatric survivors. SCI receives no funding from the psychiatric drug industry, the “mental health system” or the government.

NOTE: Just getting this human rights alert e-mail does *not* necessarily mean you are already an SCI member. DENDRITE is a free public e-mail alert list. _Dendron News_ is Support Coalition’s newsjournal for members. Not sure you’re a current member? Ask

You can get DENDRITE e-mail human rights alerts *free*:

To get free DENDRITE alerts, simply e-mail to:

with these two words only in body of message: subscribe dendrite

To stop receiving these human rights alerts, e-mail to:

with these two words only in body of message: unsubscribe dendrite


COPY & POST to appropriate places on & off Internet:
NEWS ALERT: human rights & “mental health system.”
A free project of Support Coalition International. email:




LONG ISLAND, NY — Adam Szyszko may receive
electroshock against his expressed wishes any day
now at Pilgrim Psychiatric Center. And his family
is asking the public to help defend his rights.

Because psychiatric drugs had been so harmful for
Adam, his psychiatrist wanted to give him
electroshock. Adam said “no.” So Pilgrim Psychiatric
Center took Adam, who is 25 years old, to court to
get a judge’s order allowing forced electroshock
against his will. His family said Adam was so poorly
represented at the hearing that no independent
expert was called to testify and Adam’s own attorney
endorsed electroshock within earshot of the judge.

On November 22, 2000, the judge signed the order
that Adam may be forcibly electroshocked. A new
attorney is now filing an appeal, but in the
meantime Adam’s best chance may be in the court of
public opinion.

Anna Szyszko is Adam’s sister. She told Support
Coalition that the whole family opposes the planned
involuntary electroshock of Adam. Anna said, “I just
think we can try other things instead of doing
something so drastic as forced electroshock. There
are so many worthwhile things that could be tried.”

Anna said that public interest in her family’s
plight is finally giving her hope: “After the
hearing I felt so helpless because it seemed like
everything was stacked against us. I can’t believe
there’s a chance to help him. I hope the public will
speak out.” [More info on Adam's campaign at bottom.]




1. Governor George E. Pataki
2. OMH Commissioner James L. Stone
3. Pilgrim Executive Director Alan Weinstock

E-mail addresses:,,


To: Gov. Pataki, Commissioner Stone, Pilgrim Director Weinstock:

Stop the plans for forced electroshock of Adam Szyszko at
Pilgrim Psychiatric Center. This electroshock would be
against his wishes, and against the wishes of his family.
Electroshock can cause brain damage, including permanent
memory loss and learning disabilities. There are more humane
and effective alternatives. Please respond to this message.

Signed: [Your name & contact info.]

Optional: Copy your message to Support Coalition at
. Support Coalition
will keep the family informed about public support.



Adam Szyszko is locked up in Pilgrim Psychiatric Center.
Pilgrim Psychiatric Center was in the public eye
earlier this year. _Newsday_ reported on July 10,
2000 that, “State and national oversight agencies
are investigating recent incidents at Pilgrim State
Psychiatric Center to determine whether three
patients who died Easter weekend and a fourth who is
now paralyzed from the neck down received adequate
medical care and whether their tragic outcomes could
have been prevented.”

Who is responsible for policy about forced electroshock
at Pilgrim Psychiatric Center? Good question!

The executive director of the troubled Pilgrim
Psychiatric Center is Alan Weinstock. In an
interview he told Support Coalition, “We don’t
usually discuss the forms of treatment that are used
here at the facility. We have used shock, obviously.
But I don’t really have a position on involuntary
electroshock. Pilgrim Psychiatric Center is one of
28 state psychiatric facilities under the NY Office
of Mental Health in Albany. I’m an administrator,
not a clinician. I have a clinical staff and
clinical director and licensed psychiatrists who I
entrust with the care and treatment of my patients.
We have a consumer council here at the hospital and
I meet with them myself. We support consumer
empowerment. But clinical direction comes from
Central Office in Albany. We do not engage in
clinical activity that hasn’t been directed to us
from Central Office. I’m not familiar with the state
policy on involuntary electroshock. Now that you have
raised my attention I’m going to absolutely take a
look at it.”

The NY Office of Mental Health (OMH) must have a
policy about forced shock, because an attorney
specializing in New York mental health law, speaking
off the record, guestimated that nearly every month
there might be one or two involuntary electroshocks in
the New York state mental health system, using
similar court orders. Ironically, OMH’s web site
states OMH’s values and priorities include, “Recovery
is the process of gaining control over one’s life…
Respect is esteem for the worth of a person including
recognition of dignity, diversity and cultural
differences… Safety is an environment free from
hurt, injury or danger… Individualized service
plans are designed around the needs and desires of
an individual.” See:

What’s unique about Adam’s situation is that the
family is speaking out against the forced shock and
the public is finding out about it. When fighting similar
instances of forced electroshock in Wisconsin, Illinois,
California, Missouri and Wisconsin, Support Coalition
activists have seen intense public interest. Because of
such human rights violations, the Presidents National Council
on Disability has even recommended phasing out
electroshock. See the NCD Core Recommendations:

For more information about electroshock, also see:


Additional action: You can also write, fax & phone the
three decision-makers individually with civil messages:

1. Governor George E. Pataki
State Capitol
Albany, NY 12224

Telephone: (518) 474-8390,
Fax: (518) 473-7669

2. OMH Commissioner James L. Stone, MSW, CSW
New York State Office of Mental Health
44 Holland Avenue
Albany, New York 12229

Telephone: (518) 474-4403
Fax: (518) 474-2149

3. Alan Weinstock, Executive Director
Pilgrim Psychiatric Center
998 Crooked Hill Road
West Brentwood, NY 11717-1087

Telephone: (631) 761-2609
Fax: (631) 761-2600



You can now join, donate and renew with Support Coalition
International by VISA/MasterCard via a secure web server:

To contact or join Support Coalition International other ways:
Phone 9 am to 5 pm Pacific Time at (541) 345-9106.
Or you can join toll free at 1-877-MAD-PRIDE (623-7743).
Or fax to (541) 345-3737. Or write to:
Support Coalition; PO Box 11284; Eugene, OR 97440 USA.
Or e-mail: Donations tax deductible.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ DENRITE ALERT BROUGHT TO YOU
e-mail list, so you do *not* get too much e-mail this way.

**BRANCH LIKE A DENDRITE** Copy & forward this
alert to appropriate places on & off the Internet, just as
your brain uses tree-like dendrites to network
billions of neurons. More than 2,500 interested people are
the first to receive this. Many re-distribute it and take action.
not affilliated with — and not to be confused with — any other
entity, such as “DENDRITE FOREST” or their publications.

Support Coalition International is a totally independent
non-profit federation of nearly 100 groups in 14 countries
united to win human rights and alternatives in the
“mental health system.” SCI is open to the public,
and led by psychiatric survivors. SCI receives no
funding from the psychiatric drug industry, the
“mental health system” or the government.

NOTE: Just getting this human rights alert e-mail does *not*
necessarily mean you are already an SCI member. DENDRITE is a free public e-mail alert list.
_Dendron News_ is Support Coalition’s newsjournal for members.
Not sure you’re a member? Ask

You can get DENDRITE
e-mail human rights alerts *free*:

To get free DENDRITE alerts, simply e-mail to:

with these two words only in body of message:
subscribe dendrite

To stop receiving these human rights alerts, e-mail to:

with these two words only in body of message:
unsubscribe dendrite

Riverview insider speaks out

Riverview insider speaks out
Elderly man has received over 70 ECTs against his will

Exclusive to

An insider at Riverview Hospital in Vancouver, British Columbia is blowing the whistle on the continued weekly electroshock treatments of a geriatric patient.

This insider, whom I’ll call Bob to protect the person’s identity, says that Michael Matthews, age 70, receives an electroshock every Friday and has received over 70 of them to date.

“His mind is rapidly going down the tubes,” Bob said. “He used to be a delightful conversationalist with a good attention span.”

Bob added that the patient has asked them to stop, but feels “helpless.”

“It just breaks my heart,” Bob said.

When asked why he thinks they continue to give him the treatments, Michael said, “They’re trying to get rid of me. They think I’m a problem.”

Riverview Hospital has been under investigation by the province since mid-December, when a staff psychiatrist alerted Health Minister Corky Evans.

Staff psychiatrist Jaime Parades told Evans that the number of electroconvulsive therapy treatments ordered for geriatric patients like Matthews had more than doubled since doctors had been given a payment increase for the procedures.

Dr. Parades said that he had approached hospital administrators with his concerns, but that their response included “roadblocks, delay tactics and intimidation.”

Bob said that he felt frustrated in efforts to help Matthews and finally decided to approach activists in a last-ditch attempt to get some help.

“He had the sweetest disposition – something everyone commented on and appreciated. We all loved chatting with Michael. Gradually he has become more and more agitated, irritable, confused, and delusional. He talks to the walls now, falls asleep in the middle of sentences, tells us he is probably Jesus Christ, and rambles on endlessly in total nonsense,” Bob said.