Cold Spring Harbor, New York (PRWEB) May 07, 2014
A patient who was mistreated in one of the largest hospital systems in the country has formed a new nonprofit company, called SaneRights, to help other former patients to seek justice. The organization’s website, http://www.MentalHealthClassAction.com, contains information for the public, and the dozens of other potential plaintiffs whom founder Lauren Andersen says have contacted her about their own negative experiences with psychiatric hospitalization.
SaneRights states that Ms. Andersen submitted complaints to an array of government officials who are responsible for investigating fraud and misconduct in mental healthcare facilities… from local district attorneys to the White House. SaneRights says that most of these complaints received no response, and the others only a grudging form letter, followed by silence.
The common thread running through these patients' cases, SaneRights claims, is hospitals' improper use of their "emergency detention" power, with which they are endowed by the State. Ms. Andersen says, “These are the sinister statutes that allow a psychiatrist to lock you up in a hospital psych ward without notice. Generally speaking, these laws require that a patient be an imminent physical danger to himself or others to be detained. Unfortunately, in our experience, the psychiatric industry has a history of lax regulatory compliance, so that it gets away with detaining people who are nonviolent, and are only admitted to the hospital because they are eccentric, or are acting out of character. Often, family members facilitate this, because they can't or don't want to care for the patient at home. Other patients and their families don’t speak English well enough to communicate with the doctors, or the other way around. Staff errors are common in hospital psychiatry. Further, hospitals are incentivized to admit patients, due to the high relative profitability of psychiatric ward beds.”
In addition to unlawful involuntary commitment and physical or sexual assault, SaneRights states, “these patients allege their experiences include being mistreated by unlicensed and unsupervised staff, forcible drugging, physical abuse, and excessive fees -- usually charged to Medicare or Medicaid. Patients say they frequently face discrimination based on race, gender, age, religion, disability and sexual orientation.”
The organization says that these patients tend to be among society’s most vulnerable people, with disproportionate numbers of seniors, youngsters and women. Their care is likely to be paid by Medicare or Medicaid. The vast majority of them are non-dangerous and nonviolent.
This topic may be of particular interest in the next few days, as the American Psychiatric Association (APA) annual meeting is concluding in New York City. Vice President Joe Biden was a keynote speaker at the event on Monday. Given that Vice President Biden spoke out strongly against sexual violence on college campuses just a few days ago, it would be surprising if the White House failed to comment on the problem of staff-on-patient violence in some of the country's most exalted healthcare institutions. "No man has a right under any circumstance other than self defense... to raise his hand to a woman, period, end of story. It is assault, if they do," said Biden.
Biden also highlighted the urgent need for more psychiatrists in the US, stating that fewer than 40% of adults and half of children who need psychiatric services receive treatment. It is common knowledge that there is a skills shortage in psychiatry, which makes it even more hypocritical for this profession to practice widespread involuntary commitment of non-dangerous people.
SaneRights states, “Inappropriate use of a psychiatrist’s detention power violates a long list of laws. Notably, it defies Americans' 14th Amendment due process rights, because patients are frequently denied the attorney consultations and hearings that are mandated by law. Detention often interferes with patients' freedom of speech and religion, because it is difficult to exercise these rights while locked in a psych ward. The invasive yet common practices of strip-searching, unwarranted interrogation, and confiscating patients' possessions on admission infringe their 4th Amendment privacy rights. And fees based on unlawful involuntary treatment, when they are charged to Medicare or Medicaid, constitute fraud against the federal government.”
SaneRights highlights the fact that psychiatric commitment, even when a patient has sought help from a hospital VOLUNTARILY, prevents patients from ever owning a firearm again, which breaches their 2nd Amendment rights. This is because state laws allow mental hospitals to send psych patients' names to the FBI's National Crime Statistics (NICS) database, without due process, even if they have not committed a crime... a well-kept secret about mental healthcare.
The APA meeting schedule** appears to contain nothing about patients’ legal rights. SaneRights says that psychiatrists and other mental health workers tend to be poorly educated in the law, and believes it is this phenomenon that has led to endemic transgression of patients’ rights in America. The only session that purported to deal with law at the APA meeting was seemingly aimed at protecting psychiatrists, not their patients: “Working to Address the Over-Representation of Justice-Involved People With Mental Disorders”.
SaneRights considers that these problems are exacerbated by an ingrained culture of apathy -- or even contempt -- for the rights of psychiatric patients, by regulators and law enforcement. The company says, “These problems could be avoided by better training and supervision of hospital personnel, law enforcement officers, and department of health regulators… but there first needs to be a change of attitude toward people with mental disorders at the very top of these organizations. In New York, this change must start with Mssrs. Cuomo and Schneiderman.”
P.O. Box 500, Cold Spring Harbor, New York 11724