Minnesota Woman Says "No!" to Her Forced Outpatient Electroshock
Elizabeth Ellis, 67, and husband Robert stay home today, and do not report for another forced outpatient electroshock. How you can help.
Robert (left) is the husband of Elizabeth K. Ellis (right) who is court ordered to receive forced electroshock on an outpatient basis.
27 January 2011
How you can support Elizabeth Ellis saying "No!" to forced electroshock.
Elizabeth: "I have never believed in electroconvulsive therapy!"
By coincidence: Today is the first of 2 days of FDA public hearings on shock device
by David W. Oaks, Director, MindFreedom International
This morning, Elizabeth K. Ellis, 67, of Moorhead, Minnesota was supposed to wake up extra early.
Her husband Robert was supposed to drive Elizabeth the five minutes to a mental health clinic in nearby Fargo.
And Elizabeth was supposed to have another court-ordered involuntary outpatient electroshock.
It would have been her 18th forced shock.
Supported by MindFreedom International, Elizabeth and her husband Robert (see photo above) stayed home this morning, rather than endure another forced electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). They're terrified the mental health system may retaliate.
For online action YOU can take to support Elizabeth, and to read her story of resisting forced electroshock, see BELOW.
Today of all days, is a good one for this couple and you to say "no" to forced outpatient electroshock.
Says Elizabeth, "Let us be healed but in healthy and humane ways. We certainly shouldn't be abused in the name of help - and isn't ECT abuse?
For the first time in 70 years, the US government is considering regulating the electroshock device. Today and tomorrow, the Food & Drug Administration is holding public hearings in Gaithersburg, Maryland about whether to finally investigate the ECT device for safety and efficacy. A number of MindFreedom members are testifying. For news and testimony from the hearing as it arrives check: http://3.ly/MFIFDAECT
Support Elizabeth Ellis!
* ACTION * ACTION * ACTION *
Please email the new Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton:
Sample message (your own words are best):
"Please investigate the involuntary outpatient electroshocks of Minnesota resident Elizabeth K. Ellis, 67, as reported by MindFreedom International. Please make sure the mental health system does not retaliate. Support Elizabeth in finding human alternatives to forced ECT! Please reply."
Include your contact info.
** Phone both Gov. Dayton and Lt. Governor Solon:
** FORWARD this message to all human rights supporters.
HER STORY: FORCED ELECTROSHOCK OF ELIZABETH ELLIS
Involuntary Outpatient Electroshock in the USA
Though most people don't know it, involuntary electroshock over the expressed wishes of the subject is allowed by law internationally, including in every US State. ECT runs electricity through the brain causing a convulsion, supposedly to treat depression, and leads to permanent memory and cognitive disabilities, even though humane alternatives exist.
MindFreedom argues that forced electroshock is opposed by the World Health Organization, violates the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities, and amounts to torture.
In 2009, MindFreedom won a major campaign on behalf of another Minnesota resident, Ray Sandford, who received more than 40 involuntary electroshocks, including many on an outpatient basis. Ray won international attention, and public pressure stopped his forced shocks. You can read about the Ray campaign here: http://mindfreedom.org/ray
This past Sunday, Elizabeth K. Ellis of Moorhead, Minnesota -- who is a member of MindFreedom International -- revealed on a national MFI teleconference that she was being forced to have electroshock by court order, on an outpatient basis.
Elizabeth knows what she's talking about when she says "no" to forced electroshock. Elizabeth spent 17 years employed in the school system, mostly as a teacher, and five of those years were as a guidance counselor. Elizabeth has a master's degree in counseling.
Elizabeth told MindFreedom, "Decades ago, I started to use the mental health system. But I have never believed in ECT, and I have written a personal advance directive that I did not want electroshock, and did not want medication either."
This Fall, Elizabeth had a crisis: "My sister Joanne died of lung cancer in September 2010 at the age of 69. Moments after my sister died in the hospital, I became especially upset. Immediately, while still in the hospital where my sister had just died, a family member held me and involuntarily admitted me into mental health care."
ANOKA STATE HOSPITAL BEGINS FORCED ELECTROSHOCK
Elizabeth was locked up in Anoka State Hospital and, because of weight loss while locked up, was prescribed a course of involuntary electroshock. Ray Sandford says this is the same institution that started his round of forced electroshocks.
Says Elizabeth: "I was locked up for three-and-a-half months. When I got out on on January 5th of this month, they told me I had to keep getting the electroshock on an outpatient basis under court order. They said if my husband did not drive me over to get electroshock, I would be locked up again in a state institution."
Elizabeth said she has no real legal assistance. The couple could not afford a private attorney, so she was assigned a public defender who the couple said sided with the State about the forced electroshock.
So at the start of this month, every week, early in the morning, the couple -- under court order -- drove to a nearby clinic in adjoining Fargo, North Dakota for another involuntary electroshock for Elizabeth.
Elizabeth had a lot of reasonable complaints: "The electroshock caused cognitive problems. I can't think. My memory -- I have no memory."
After a few weeks, Elizabeth's husband Robert complained to her doctor that she was being harmed, and that the electroshocks should totally stop. Robert said, "The doctor told me he would reschedule the treatments to every other week, but that he would not stop at this point."
So today, Elizabeth was scheduled for what the couple said would have been her 18th electroshock.
After MindFreedom contacted legal advocacy, the couple decided to stay at home this morning, and not make the drive again to Fargo, again.
ELIZABETH LOOKS INTO HER ELECTROSHOCK
To find out more about her electroshocks while in the institution, Elizabeth said, "I've been reading through my records. It's very interesting to note how they really pushed ECT in my records to get the court to sign off on it."
Elizabeth said she feels trapped. "I have never agreed with ECT. But I know that once you get into the system for over 30 years, it's very hard to get out, as a client. I have a lot of reservations about the quality of health that is offered now a days. I have never agreed with electroshock."
Elizabeth discovered in her records that she actively tried to stop her electroshocks in the institution. Said Elizabeth, "My records say that while I was in the Anoka State Hospital this past Fall, I refused electroshock. My records state that they had to physically force me and lift me up in a chair to move me to the electroshock table, because I refused."
Elizabeth is remarkably articulate and insightful about why she does not want more forced electroshocks:
"It just scares me that three and a half months of my life have been totally wiped out. Lord knows what has happened. And it's not just the previous three months but years back in the past, such as many childhood memories. I don't think electroshock has a benefit when compared to a deficit of losing your own mind. My doctors say the benefits will help the person, but to me it's had the opposite effect."
Elizabeth added, "Thank God there's an organization like yours, MindFreedom. Electroshock is becoming a popular treatment. They're trying to promote it. There's a push for ECT."
Her husband Robert added, "The only thing I can say is, I'm sorry that she went through electroshock. I'd like to have her get off of them completely. I talked to the psychiatrist, and he said her memory would gradually come back when the treatments were spread further apart to every two weeks." Her memory has not come back.
PREVENT RETALIATION: SPEAK UP FOR ELIZABETH!
MindFreedom phoned the Fargo facility doing the electroshock, and a psychiatric nurse there, Renee, said, "I am just doing my job. You should talk to her treating psychiatrist, Dr. Jeffrey Row." Dr. Row works for Center For Psychiatric Care in Moorhead, Minnesota. According to Renee, after Elizabeth left Anoka psychiatric institution, the first of Elizabeth's outpatient forced electroshocks began even before she had seen Dr. Row.
MindFreedom has multiple phone messages in to a variety of individuals Elizabeth said are involved in her case, including:
- The psychiatrist who she said gave the electroshock, Dr. Nadeem Haider.
- The director of the Fargo clinic where he works, Cindy Skoric.
- Elizabeth's psychiatrist Dr. Jeffrey Row.
- Director of the Minnesota Disability Law Center, attorney Pamela Hoopes.
So far, none have returned the calls.
This morning, I was able to patch in Ray Sandford by three-way-phone to Elizabeth and introduce them. Ray talked about his successful campaign, which Elizabeth had heard of. Ray encouraged Elizabeth to stay strong, and talked about how well he is doing now, free of electroshocks. Both Elizabeth and Ray are devoutly religious, and they discussed relying on their Christian faith and local religious leaders to support them during their ordeals.
They also discussed fear of retaliation by the mental health system for saying "no." In Ray's case, he was in a group home where guards woke him up early each Wednesday for the trip to his forced electroshock. Physically, Ray said he had no chance to stop the shocks. Ray said, "When I was in the hospital for one of my forced outpatient electroshocks, I actually saw someone brought into the hospital wearing handcuffs for one of his ECT procedures."
Elizabeth has an advantage over Ray, since she and her husband Robert live independently in their own rented home. The couple stands united.
AN INTERSECTION OF OPPRESSIONS
And this time, more of the public are -- nationally and in Minnesota, thanks to MindFreedom -- aware that involuntary outpatient electroshock is a reality in the USA. MindFreedom found that opposing involuntary electroshock is one thing almost all Americans -- conservative and liberal, red state and blue state -- fiercely oppose, once shown evidence it exists.
Like most USA states, Minnesota has involuntary outpatient commitment laws that allow court ordered treatment -- usually psychiatric drugging -- against a person's will, even if they are living in their own home peacefully in the community.
Since the tragedy in Arizona on 8 January, the mainstream media has given a great deal of coverage to a small extremist group -- Treatment Advocacy Center -- that is pushing for expanded outpatient commitment laws, which they rename with a misleading euphemism of "assisted treatment." I've been blogging about media bias after the Arizona tragedy here:
TAC itself may be divided about the issue, since TAC board member Fred Frese, PhD talks about how he personally managed to avoid forced electroshock while institutionalized. While TAC goes about its crusade, Elizabeth and Robert, peaceful senior citizens living in their own home -- which we are told is our 'castle' -- are experiencing the end result: terror.
Forced electroshock while living at home in the community, is the logical end result of involuntary outpatient commitment. Elizabeth is at an intersection of oppressions. And she is saying "no."
This could be your neighbor or loved one.
This could be you.
Elizabeth and Robert did not go to their forced electroshock today, thanks to MindFreedom.
SO SPEAK UP ABOUT ELECTROSHOCK!
By coincidence, this couple courageously said "no" on the very same day electroshock survivors are speaking out at FDA public hearings about whether to begin regulating the device for the first time in 70 years.
We must all stand with Elizabeth and Robert, so that the mental health system provides humane choices, rather than retaliation.
Please take the ACTION above to contact the fairly new Governor of Minnesota, Mark Dayton, today!
The former Governor of Minneosta Tim Pawlenty may run for president under a banner of being against "big government." But let us all remember Pawlenty did absolutely nothing when hundreds of people complained to his office about Ray Sandford's forced electroshock. MindFreedom even sent a delegation, including myself, to Gov. Pawlenty office, but he and his office stayed silent.
Now is the time to see if Governor Dayton will stand up for the most powerless of citizens, who Governor Pawlenty betrayed.
There is an overwhelming power imbalance between a mental health industry fueled by billions of taxpayer dollars, versus some of the most vulnerable and marginalized US citizens, in this case a senior woman whose most recent entry into the psychiatric system began the same day she lost her beloved sister.
Take the above ACTION!
And understand: More than reform in mental health is needed. We need a peaceful revolution, today.
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