Group calls for investigation of suicide at Federal Medical Center
Source: Post-Bulletin, Rochester, Minnesota, USA
A mental health advocacy group is calling for further investigation into the recent suicide of an inmate at the Federal Medical Center in Rochester.
Michael Heston, 50, died Jan. 24 of complications of a hanging at the prison, according to Olmsted County coroner Dr. Eric Pfeifer. He was convicted of mailing a threatening communication and committed in December 1993.
According to federal procedure, the death will be investigated. However, Dan Cansino, public information officer at FMC, said he cannot comment on the investigation.
Before his death, MindFreedom International says, Heston wrote several letters to the organization. MindFreedom International is a group described as an independent nonprofit coalition defending human rights and promoting humane alternatives for mental and emotional well being.
Excerpts from those letters were posted on the organization’ s Web site starting on Dec. 10. In the letters, Heston said he was being forcibly injected with psychiatric drugs.
“I live in mortal fear,” Heston wrote. “The needle has me terrified, they just keep sticking me every two weeks and I feel like death.”
MindFreedom International and Heston’s family are calling for further investigation into Heston’s death and the use of psychiatric drugs, especially neuroleptic, or antipsychotic, injections, at the facility.
Although psychiatric drugs can benefit some people, the use of the drugs shouldn’t be forced on anyone, said David Oaks, executive director MindFreedom International.
In Heston’s case, Oaks said, “it’s challenging when someone is a prisoner and did commit a crime. He is no Rosa Parks, but our society is not supposed to have cruel and unusual punishment. Massive forced neuroleptics, over the last 10 to 15 years while he was locked up, can be considered cruel and unusual. It can cause brain damage as well as a lot of other problems.”
Nancy Schumacher, executive director of the Citizens Commission on Human Rights, an international organization that investigates and exposes abuses in the mental health field, also pointed out the health concerns of the drugs. Side effects can include extreme restlessness, uncontrollable twitching and homicidal or suicidal inclinations, she said.
Her chapter, which is based in Twin Cities and covers a five-state region, has received complaints similar to that of Heston’s from inmates at state facilities where the drugs are used more as a chemical restraint than as rehabilitation, she said.
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Note from MindFreedom International about above article: For clarity, and not to criticize any other organization, please note that MindFreedom International is totally independent, and is not linked organizationally or via any funding to Citizens Commission on Human Rights or Scientology. For more information on MFI independence click here.