Monday, August 18, 2008

A Death in the Family

“William Bruce approached his mother as she worked at her desk at home and struck killing blows to her head with a hatchet,” accounts an August 16, 2008 story in The Wall Street Journal.  Just two month before, the 24-year old man with schizophrenia was released against doctor’s orders from the Riverview Psychiatric Center in Augusta, Maine.  “Very dangerous indeed for release to the community,” wrote one doctor.

This didn’t stop government-funded patient advocates, none of them doctors, to fight for his right to be psychotic.

“No matter how psychotic, that voice is still worthy of being heard,” said Helen Bailey, one of the William’s former attorneys with the Maine Disability Rights Center.

The convoluted sense of rights is continuing to be pushed in a pending lawsuit in the state, as well as in other actions around the country.  Ms. Bailey continues to find new clients and continues to use taxpayer dollars to push a misguided agenda. 

Did Ms. Bailey act in William’s best interest?  William is likely the best judge.  Here is what he told The Wall Street Journal in his first interview about the case: 


“I blame the illness, and I blame myself,” William said of his mother's death. “The guilt is...,” he paused, struggling to find a word “...tough.”

William said the first time he came to Riverview, he refused to believe he was mentally ill and approached the advocates because he wanted out.

“They helped me immensely with getting out of the hospital, so I was very happy,” he said. He later added, “The advocates didn't protect me from myself, unfortunately.”

“There are times when people should be committed,” William said. “Institutions can really help. Medicine can help.

“None of this would have happened if I had been medicated.”


Perhaps Ms. Bailey and other advocates should adhere to the first rule of medicine, and that to first do no harm.

The Bruce family story is not an isolated occurrence. The Treatment Advocacy Center is collecting stories from people about their experiences with federally funded Protection & Advocacy attorneys.  If you have had an experience where Protection and Advocacy organization tried to keep a loved one from getting needed treatment, or were involved in lobbying against treatment law reforms, please email us your story.