Monday, May 21, 2007

We're all paying for a "playground for anti-psychiatric activists"

Dr. Sally Satel paints a vivid picture of how some federally funded mental health “advocates” are harming the most severely mentally ill and their families.

Take the case of William Bruce:

An appalling case of federally funded patient "advocacy" run amok was exposed just this month. On May 3, Robert Bruce of Caratunk, Maine, testified before the state legislature about his 25-year-old son, William. The young man had been a patient at Riverview Psychiatric Center from February to April 2006, where he had been committed after assaulting his father. Mr. Bruce and his wife were afraid of their son and begged the hospital to medicate him with the antipsychotic that had previously quelled his paranoia and aggression.

But William wanted to leave the hospital. Advocates from the Disability Rights Center, Maine's federally funded P&A, pushed for his release despite dire warnings from psychiatrists ("I find myself extremely concerned about this young man's potential for violence," reads one of many explicit notes in the medical record).

Nonetheless, the advocates insisted that William was "competent" for discharge and openly coached him--as a lawyer would his client--on how to placate the doctors so they'd let him go. William prevailed, and Riverview discharged him on April 20. Exactly two months later he murdered his mother with a hatchet. In his wrenching testimony before Maine legislators, Robert Bruce emphasized "the role that the patient advocates played in this tragedy."

Dr. Satel’s brilliant article makes the case that the P&A system, which Jean Isaac and Virginia Armat documented in their 1990 book Madness in the Streets as a "playground for anti-psychiatric activists" – needs to be reformed!

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