On debate, and seeing UFO's, and not being "fine"
Forced psychiatric drugging got some news coverage that compared two court room cases going on at same time in Alaska.
AT THE BOTTOM OF THIS is an interesting report by NY Times reporter Alex Berenson published today, 24 March 2008, in International Herald Tribune, about two court cases going on in Alaska... and contrasting the two.
A fascinating comparison and I appreciated it.
But I notice that Mr. Berenson said only one point in the two courtrooms "was BEYOND debate" (my emphasis) ....
The journalist argues that a person with a psychiatric label was not "fine," and that this was not debatable.
Back in high school I did pretty well in debate. It was widely acknowledged -- and who am I to argue -- that I was better than my debate partner for four years who went on to become a psychiatrist by the way.
This brings up a good example of what ought to be called "sanism." You've heard of racism... sexism... maybe ableism and classism... but sanism? That's discriminating against an individual because of their psychiatric label.
I took reporter Berenson up on his "beyond debate" challenge, to show him there is a bit of debate indeed.... below is my e-mail to the reporter (followed by his report). Feel free to forward, and add a civil note to Mr. Berenson at email@example.com
Subject: interesting fact....
Date: March 24, 2008 4:27:32 PM PDT
I saw your report about the individual in Alaska who was fighting for the right to refuse psychiatric drugs.
You mentioned Mr. Bigley thought he saw UFO's.
You added that Mr. Bigley was not "fine." You said that was beyond debate.
Okay, I'll take that offer.
I'd just like to mention a statistic:
AP-Ipsos poll recently found that about 14 percent of the USA — mostly men and lower-income people — say they have seen a UFO.
Subjectively, someone could persuasively argue that 100 percent of the public is not "fine."
I just feel that adding that Mr. Bigley sees UFO as an example of why it's clear to you, as a reporter, he absolutely is not "fine" is subjective, and debatable.
If we can say that one human is not "fine," it ought to apply to all.
A thought experiment:
Suppose you had added:
"And in fact looking at the judge, I could tell it was beyond debate that the judge is not 'fine' either."
Suppose you even had "proof" (perhaps this hypothetical judge is overweight and chain smoked).
No matter what, as a journalist you would not have been able to get away with your "beyond debate" point about the judge.
It's possible to "get away" with calling our constituency "not fine," and saying it's beyond debate, simply because our constituency tends to be so powerless.
It's about power.
If the word "fine" can impact whether or not we end up getting forcibly drugged, then I would easily argue either none of us is "fine," or all of us is "fine." In fact, there have been religions and philosophers through the ages who argue that each and every precious human -- each life source in fact -- is "fine," even if it is harmed or extremely different.
I don't have to convince you. I just need to show you there is indeed a "debate."
I think, while it's extra effort, we ought to apply the basic journalist ethics to our constituency too.
David W. Oaks, Executive Director
International Herald Tribune
Trials illustrate two views of best-selling schizophrenia medicine
By Alex Berenson
March 24, 2008
Two courtrooms, two floors of the Nesbett courthouse, two views of
In courtroom 403, lawyers read corporate memos to the jury deciding the
fate of a lawsuit brought by the state of Alaska, which was charging the
drug maker Eli Lilly with hiding the dangers of Zyprexa, its
best-selling schizophrenia medicine.
At the same time, in courtroom 301, William Bigley had his own opinions
on Zyprexa and on the other drugs he has taken since 1980 to battle
demons that only he can see. On March 14, a state court judge was to
decide whether Bigley should be held for 30 days in a psychiatric
Bigley, 55, told the judge that the drugs were "poison" and that he did
not need them. "I'm fine," he said. His words were undercut, however, by
regular claims to having seen flying saucers and to knowing that
President George W Bush owned a private jet.
Of all the facts at issue in the two courtrooms, one was beyond debate.
Bigley was not fine.
Even so, the hearing in the Bigley case offered a textbook illustration
of the agonizing choices mentally ill patients face as they consider
whether to take Zyprexa or other antipsychotics.
By calming the hallucinations and delusions that plague people with
schizophrenia, drugs like Zyprexa allow many patients to live outside
psychiatric institutions. But the documents discussed in room 403
offered plenty of evidence that Bigley, whatever his delusions, had good
reason to dislike the medicines.
All antipsychotics have side effects, and Zyprexa's are among the worst,
according to the American Diabetes Association and to independent
scientists. In many patients, Zyprexa causes severe weight gain that can
lead to diabetes, as well as sharply higher cholesterol and triglyceride
levels in the blood. Those are all risk factors for heart disease.
Furthermore, the documents introduced in courtroom 403 showed that for
much of the past decade, Lilly executives played down those risks. Among
themselves, in internal e-mail messages and memos, they shared worries
that sales of Zyprexa would fall if the drug were linked to weight gain
In 2002, for example, the Japanese government ordered Lilly to warn
Japanese physicians against giving Zyprexa to people at high risk for
diabetes. But Lilly did not add a similar warning to Zyprexa labels in
the United States. Internally, Lilly executives acknowledged that the
warning had hurt Zyprexa sales in Japan.
"The impact of the label change in Japan has been very profound," two
senior Lilly executives wrote in a memo on July 1, 2002. "There has been
a 75% drop in new patients who are being put on the drug."
Indeed, with U.S. doctors learning on their own about the connection
between Zyprexa and diabetes, prescriptions for the drug have fallen 50
percent since 2003.