New York Post|
March 3, 2001
FAMILY UP IN ARMS OVER PSYCH-HOSP ZAP THERAPY
By DOUGLAS MONTERO
Anna Szyszko (right), with mother Lucyna, holds a picture of her brother, Adam, who she says has been involuntarily given shock therapy.
"It" was a surge of electricity to the head of
her 25-year-old brother, Adam.
Adam, a schizophrenic, had just been
transferred to Long Island's Pilgrim
Psychiatric Center and officials there were
adamant that they knew what was best for
She says the electroshock treatments, which
began four months ago, not only didn't help
his condition one bit - they turned him into
a virtual zombie.
"When we went to see him after the first
[shock treatment], he had a blank look on
his face - he looked like he went through
hell," Szyszko said yesterday.
"Three days later, when I asked him about it, he said, 'What shock
Her father, Bogdan, 51, who immigrated from Poland when that country
was a communist dictatorship, said, "Even over there, if the family was
against the treatment, they'd stop."
Her family has been battling Pilgrim in the courts and recently got a
temporary reprieve when a judge issued a temporary restraining order
barring more treatments for Adam.
Adam's lawyer, Dennis Feld, said the hospital "is being strident in trying
to force shock treatment on him.
"I think they know some clients are very much afraid of it, opposed to it,
and that deference to the client's wishes is not given."
Szyszko is among four patients at state facilities suing the state Office of
Mental Health to bar involuntary electroshock treatments.
The state's Commission on Quality Care began investigating the issue
after Assemblyman Marty Luster (D-Ithaca) called for a probe.
OMH spokesman Roger Klingman said the use of electroshock "is a
clinical decision that is used judiciously on a case-by-case basis."
Mental patients can voluntarily get electroshocks if they sign a consent
form. If they don't, a hospital needs a judge's order before administering it.
And the hospital usually has no trouble getting a judge to agree.
Feld also represents Paul Henri Thomas, whose electroshock treatment at
Pilgrim over the past two years has galvanized advocacy groups across
The groups charge that the hospital is purposely punishing the Haitian
Even while his lawyers were attempting to get a temporary restraining
order to halt the treatment - and after the hospital promised to hold off
until a judge ruled - Thomas was zapped again, Feld said.
During a competency hearing yesterday before Suffolk County Supreme
Court Justice Bromley Hall, Thomas, a schizophrenic, testified on his
own behalf to prove he was coherent enough to refuse electroshock
treatment. The case will resume next week.
And that's the irony of the issue.
OMH for years has allowed mental patients to give their "informed
consent" to be used as guinea pigs and get electroshock.
But when they refuse a treatment, like Thomas did, the doctors, with
support from judges, decide they're incompetent.