St. Louisan needs your help NOW

St. Louis, Missouri ----- A St. Louis hospital that was nearly shut down earlier this year by federal and state authorities because of poor conditions is now forcibly electroshocking an elderly woman. Electroshock, also known as electroconvulsive therapy or ECT, is a procedure psychiatrists use in treating severe forms of mental illness, especially depression.

Betty Suggs, 66, has had four electroshocks since last week, and faces eight more, the result of a hearing held last week in a St. Louis probate court.

Judge Sheila Hayes ruled that SouthPointe Hospital and Dr. Surendra Chaganti could give Betty up to twelve individual shocks, despite her wishes that she not undergo the controversial procedure.

"Doctor Chaganti lied in court," Ms. Suggs said in a phone interview with the writer, "and said I was extremely paranoid which is not true. He said I had other things which convinced him that I needed shock therapy, but he could not explain those other reasons."

Ms. Suggs has been living at Carrolton Manor in St. Louis, a residential facility for ambulatory mental patients. She was allowed the freedom to sign herself out to visit friends. According to Ms. Suggs, on the evening of June 23, she signed herself out and visited a friend. She was late returning to the "manor," which had often happened in the past, and the staff at the facility reported her to the police as a runaway.

"Three police cars and paramedics showed up at my friend's and the policeman said, 'Put the phone down; you're coming with us.'"

Ms. Suggs said she did not resist, and was taken in a police car to SouthPointe Hospital in St. Louis.

A few weeks later, staff at the hospital told her she would be
undergoing ECT.

"They didn't even discuss it; just came in and said you're having this."

When Ms. Suggs announced that she would refuse the treatments, the hospital took the case to court.

She was given a court-appointed attorney, Thomas Hayes of St. Louis.

"He was in my corner," says Ms Suggs. "He believes me. Chaganti simply lied about me in court; he doesn't even know me well."

She added that in the past two years since Dr. Chaganti became her psychiatrist, he has seen her only seven times, a few minutes each visit.

"I tried to dismiss him," she said, "to tell him he was no longer my doctor, but could never reach him despite countless phone calls."

"The forced electroshocking of Betty Suggs must stop now," said Leonard Roy Frank, an electroshock survivor and activist, and author of 'The History of Shock Treatment.'

"Electroshock (ECT) is psychiatry's most controversial procedure. A strong argument can be made that it should not be used in any circumstances. Surely it should never be used on anyone against her or his will. Ms. Suggs is now in the midst of an ECT series which she has vehemently resisted. She is at grave risk of suffering severe and permanent harm from the procedure."

Ms. Suggs said she had ECT in the 1960s, and that it left her with severe damage and memory loss, and she didn't want to face having the same thing happen again.

"I feel like my rights are being violated. I was brought here by force. I had been taken to court and the judge ruled they could do ECT on me. I do not need it, but they are making me take it anyway. It's unfair and unjust."

ECT is performed while the patient is fully anesthetized, and the American Psychiatric Association guidelines state that a patient should not have food or water for several hours prior to treatment. Ms. Suggs said she deliberately ate and drank before her first treatment in an effort to halt the procedure.

"Let me tell you what I did that first morning. I ate six cookies and drank a gallon of water, to be spiteful and try to stop it. I told them and they gave it anyway."

"The fact that ECT would be given against a patient's will, and that she deliberately ate and drank knowing that this should have stopped them from giving the treatment demonstrates several things" said psychiatrist Dr. Lee Coleman.

"First it demonstrates the patient is clearly competent to decide she doesn't want treatment. Second, it demonstrates that the doctors are clearly incompetent in that they forced the treatment on her anyway. Finally, the judge is incompetent for failing to recognize that she was competent."

"The entire episode is a travesty and an overwhelming abuse," Dr. Coleman said.

SouthPointe, owned by Tenet Healthcare Corporation, has a history of poor conditions, and was threatened with shutdown in February. A last-minute settlement between government officials and the hospital resulted in the hospital's psychiatric ward remaining open, but officials issued a scathing report saying SouthPointe put patients in jeopardy because of conditions on its wards. Tenet, formerly known as National Medical Enterprises, has a notorious history of its own. In 1994, Tenet was ordered to pay $379 million in criminal and other fines. The Canadian government filed a $175 million lawsuit against the company in 1998, which is still pending.

Betty Suggs urgently needs your help. Last year, a similar campaign was mounted worldwide when Kathleen Garrett, 68, faced a strikingly similar situation at St. Louis' Des Peres Hospital, a sister hospital to SouthPointe. The successful campaign of emails, faxes and phone calls halted the forced electroshocking of Ms. Garrett and gained her release from the hospital.


Here's an easy way you can help now:

Email, call, telegram and/or fax to the CEO of the hospital that is giving this woman forced electroshock:

Doug Doris, CEO
SouthPointe Hospital, St. Louis, Missouri

(copy this person, his exec. assistant)
Phone: (314) 577-5800
Fax: 314.268.6054

Please keep your message civil.
Please COPY your message to:



To: Doug Doris
Copy: Barbara Sapienza
Copy: Juli Lawrence

"Stop forced electroshock in SouthPointe Hospital! Stop
the forced electroshock of Betty Suggs! Please respect her wishes.
I request an immediate response."

Optional: Include your name, address, phone, e-mail.



Media contacts:

KMOV (CBS) Channel 4
Phone: 314-444-6333
Fax: 314-621-4775
email (newstip):

KSDK (NBC) Channel 5
Phone: 314-444-5125
Fax: 314-444-5164

KTVI (Fox) Channel 2

KDNL (ABC) Channel 30
Phone: (314) 436-3030

Print media:

The Post Dispatch reporter:
(Eric Stern is currently working on an ECT story)

Eric Stern


Rep. Joan Barry, Chair of the Children, Families and Health Committee

Rep. Harold Selby, Vice Chair


If you can help e-mail all the above contacts,
just copy and paste this whole list:,, ,,,,,,,

[This news release provided by "," one of nearly 100
Sponsor Groups in Support Coalition.]

For more information on the web about forced electroshock, Tenet Healthcare Corporation and SouthPointe, see: