Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Psychiatric Patients' Advocates Sue New Jersey

From the New York Times- August 4, 2010-

Patient advocates filed a federal lawsuit on Tuesday charging that New Jersey psychiatric hospitals routinely medicate patients against their will without a review by an outside arbiter, a practice that is banned in most other states.

Twenty-nine states require a judge’s ruling for involuntary medication, according to the suit, including New York, Connecticut and other large states, like California, Florida and Texas. Five other states leave the decision to an individual or panel outside the hospital. Some states also provide an advocate to represent a patient in a hearing on forced medication.
But in New Jersey, state rules allow a patient in a state hospital to appeal medication decisions only to people in the hospital. The lawsuit contends that the internal appeal process is routinely ignored and that psychiatric patients in private hospitals lack any opportunity to appeal medication regimens at all.
The suit, filed in Federal District Court in Trenton by the group Disability Rights New Jersey, seeks a court order requiring the state to provide judicial review of involuntary medication. It notes that a prison inmate has more power to contest treatment decisions than a psychiatric patient.
The drugs forced on patients include powerful medications for conditions like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. They help many people with those diseases function better, but can have serious side effects, including diabetes, tremors, seizures, high blood pressure, obesity, sedation, aches and impaired mental function.
“As a patient in a state hospital, it’s your legal right to refuse and go through a process, but you get severely penalized if you try,” said W. Emmett Dwyer, litigation director of Disability Rights New Jersey, a federally financed organization. “They view you as noncompliant with treatment. They give you an injection instead of a pill. And they tell you if you don’t take it, you won’t get out.”
There are about 1,800 patients at any given time in New Jersey’s five state psychiatric hospitals, and 1,000 in private ones.
Michael D. Reisman, a lawyer with Kirkland & Ellis, which is helping bring the lawsuit, said recent records from one state hospital showed that fewer than 20 percent of patients contested their medication.
But the advocates and several former patients said many more objected to their prescriptions but submitted quietly, rather than risk painful injections or a longer hospital stay. Others, they said, are too medicated to object.
“When I said no, they just shot me up instead, so pretty soon I gave up,” said Alice Hsia, 34, who has been in and out of hospitals for schizophrenia. “The times I was sedated, I would sign anything they wanted.”
Mr. Reisman said the question often was not whether some medication was needed, but rather one of dosage or a desire to try a “different drug with fewer side effects.” Some hospital psychiatrists do not take such concerns seriously, he said, but “a judicial hearing would give the patient more leverage and force the doctors to listen.”
The State Department of Human Services, which runs the hospitals, declined to comment on the suit. But among advocates for the mentally ill, there are wide-ranging opinions on involuntary treatment.
Phil Lubitz, associate director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness of New Jersey, said he did not see forced medication as a major issue, noting that it was extremely difficult to get patients committed in New Jersey, and that most who were presented “a danger to themselves or others.”
But Robert Davison, executive director of the Mental Health Association of Essex County, called New Jersey’s policy “beneath contempt.”
“This state is way behind the times,” he said. “It suspends people’s civil rights without due process, and it’s troubled me for years.”
A few states require that the issue of involuntary medication be addressed when someone is being committed. More than 20 states require a separate hearing on the subject. There is no way to know how many patients in New Jersey would have their medications changed if there were an external review. But the advocates say a fundamental right is at stake.
The rest of the article is here.
Are you listening Senators Menendez and Lautenberg? Governor Christie? My congressman is Rush Holt. I'm going to his office at 9 am today. This is serious, folks. Please, if you live in NJ pick up a pen, call or write to you congressman, senator, or Governor Christie.  Tell NAMI they are wrong on this one. Do you want your beloved family member drugged against their will? How would you like it. 

The pen is mightier than the sword.  Get writing.
Eta: I added contacts for NJ Senators and Governor Christie

20 comments:

BOB FIDDAMAN [Fiddy] said...

“As a patient in a state hospital, it’s your legal right to refuse and go through a process, but you get severely penalized if you try,”

So, basically, you either given the drugs, force fed them or treated like shit if you refuse?

You have some democracy over in the States Susan.

NOS said...

I'm nauseated to read this. Psychiatric hospitals are so poorly managed and routinely violate the rights and respect of the patients. I know from personal experience that I have never been treated as badly as I have when I've been in the hospital. It's really gross. It makes me not want to get help even if I need it.

susan said...

Bob, maybe we should have stayed with King George III, eh? I dunno. According to my daily Tweets, there is a huge Psychiatric conference going on right now in London. I would love to have attended.

susan said...

Nos just saw what you said. Ditto. Amen. The only good thing I can say is the food was awfully good. And they had HBO and Shotime.

Mark p.s.2 said...

Forced drugging in a competent person is terrible crime. And they call it medicine.

Kristin said...

I have seen some of the worst crimes against humans in psych wards in the States. The staff just wants peace and quiet so they shoot everyone up with sedatives and restrain them.
Go Susan! Make a scene and get people to listen!
xx kris

Syd said...

Good luck with this Susan. I know that my mother was given so many meds, mostly for an incorrect diagnosis. Finally, we were able to get her to a doctor who correctly diagnosed her as depressed. Yet, she was given drugs for schizophrenia at age 60!

Chris said...

My first admission to the hospital was from a commitment, in Connecticut. Within a few days I refused to take my trilafon. They let me know they'd be taking me before a judge and I changed my mind and took it. Mainly because the doctor was a bully. But I had that option to go before a judge and plead my case if I'd felt that strongly about it.
P.S. I was appalled to read NAMI's comment. Wow.

Chris

Elizabeth Mahlou said...

I will be interested in seeing how this turns out.

Radagast said...

Susan wrote:
"...maybe we should have stayed with King George III, eh?.."

LOL. Only if you promised to keep him! Dependent upon the account that one reads, he was as mad as a hatter himself, or else suffering from porphyria (sp?). And wasn't he forcibly restrained and treated, at one point - or was that just the movie dramatization?

Anyway, "mentally ill" apparently translates as "retarded and incapable of any kind of rational thought," in most circles. The solution, apparently, is to have a mentally ill person deny their own experience and adopt the reality of those in charge. This creates an effect (whereby one tries to pretend that what one has experienced never actually happened), which is much closer to the word "madness" than anything else that I can conceive!

Matt

Stephany said...

Forced injections and involuntary sentences sounds like prison, but sadly this is the state of most inpatient psych wards...esp state funded ones and county.

If NAMI supports this, so does DBSA as they are both PRO medication groups, whether ppl want to like that or not, they are funded by pharma...and have pro-med agendas.

There was a NAMI funded house for patients to reside (housing)I came across once, and they had mandatory medication requirements to reside there. The Seattle Director of NAMI and the sponsor of Fuller Torrey's speech in June 2006 (where he promoted cat poop theory for SZ)sewed the curtains for the house like a nice grandmother would....but MEDICATION COMPLIANT OR YOU ARE KICKED OUT.

What's wrong with that? NAMI should promote patient rights, not take them away...it's a wolf in sheep clothing.

There are no rights in psych hospitals, you leave them at the door with your dignity.

Ana said...

Democracy... democracy was mentioned ... hmmmm... civil liberties......... backward... backward... the world is going backward..... pay attention, cloase attention.

Ana said...

close* not cloase...
hehe

sarah said...

this post is so important...why aren't the mental ill given rights and dignity they deserve??? Thank you for the courage to write this. I'm now a follower of you....

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Sid said...

The only thing I was surprised to read from that article was the part where NAMI of NJ doesn't think that forced medication is a major issue.

Having been inpatient many times in psych hospitals, I know full well that prisoners DO have more rights than a psych patient. Being a prisoner also carries far less of a social stigma too.

Sadly, Radagast nailed it when he said:

"mentally ill" apparently translates as "retarded and incapable of any kind of rational thought,"

Ana said...

Susan,
How are you?
It's been a while since your last post.
Just came to say Hi!
Love,
Ana

Wonder Woman said...

I know this comment is not related to this post, but I guess it's self therapy to be able to write it in a supportive community.

I'm so tired. I'm alone.

I'm tired of being resilient, as so many of us are.

I'm exhausted. I have work to do and emails to respond to.

I just wish I could just sit and do nothing for a long time.

I come to this site because Susan and all the commentators are a part of "my community"...

I wish there was an online place where we can ask each other for advice. Does anyone know of one?

With tremendous love and peace
Wonder Woman

Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday Susan....Yikes...you'll need fire department back up if you plan to light all those candles. Yet on the bright side, those AARP discounts do come in handy...lol

Enjoy your b-day, and to think at this juncture you don't have that many more before the grim reaper comes knocking...lol

Stan

Stephany said...

Happy Birthday, Susan! I hope Holly baked a cake!

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