Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota was supposed to be the general guardian for Ray Sandford through the services of Tonya Wilhelm. While LSSMN was directly in charge of Ray’s electroshock unfortunately, LSSMN took active steps to oppose, block and slow down Ray’s campaign against his forced electroshock. LSSMN should have been an ally to Ray, not an obstacle.
The Ray Sandford campaign is over, and Ray won. He no longer receives forced electroshock. Those who support Ray’s campaign are asked to end the encouraged actions, and begin celebrating. Thank you to everyone who supported his campaign.
MindFreedom is proud to have supported Ray. Those interested in understanding why Ray received electroshock, and how his campaign won, will want to study these pages in Ray’s Web of Links.
MindFreedom board, staff and members are also proud that throughout this campaign, we have consistently called for peaceful, nonviolent action, even though Ray himself was exposed to extreme and traumatic violence at the hands of his own guardianship service, LSS.
Here is info from the original May 2009 alert, to understand the history of Ray’s campaign to end his forced electroshock
Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota (LSSMN)
This large agency receives tens of millions of dollars in taxpayer funds, and is supposed to provide the general guardianship services for Ray Sandford. In other words, they are charged to protect Ray, considered a “vulnerable adult” by Minnesota law, from harm.
LSSMN President and CEO is Mark Peterson is pictured (right).
Position on Ray Campaign and forced electroshock:
Unfortunately, from the start, representatives of LSSMN have been uncooperative with Ray’s campaign to stop his forced electroshock.
In fact, LSSMN representatives have taken steps to oppose, discourage and stop Ray’s campaign.
At the very start of the campaign, MindFreedom director David W. Oaks phoned up LSSMN general guardian Tonya Wilhelm. Ms. Wilhelm confirmed that Ray was receiving forced electroshock but then stated that MindFreedom would not be allowed to issue an alert on Ray’s behalf without her permission.
When Mr. Oaks objected, Ms. Wilhelm laughed loudly into the phone, said “this matter will be between your attorney and our attorney,” and hung up. She has refused any further contact.
On a positive note, a National Public Radio journalist was allowed to visit Ray with LSSMN’s permission, but that is one of the few positive notes.
LSSMN’s attorney George Borer has stated in letters that LSSMN refuses to give permission dissemination of material about Ray’s campaign. When pressed, Mr. Borer admits that the “First Amendment” gives MindFreedom the right to disseminate Ray’s alerts, but Mr. Borer’s letters can have an effect of “chilling” people’s attempts to speak up for Ray.
LSSMN has also taken steps to prevent volunteer advocates from visiting Ray, or for Ray to visit such advocates.
While LSSMN can argue that they cannot publicly comment on a client, LSSMN could do a lot of things to help Ray’s campaign: They could allow visitors who are advocates, they could make a public statement about the general policy of outpatient electroshock, they could communicate with people supporting Ray.
And certainly they could stop sending legal letters to people who are helping Ray get out his message!
IMPORTANT NOTE:MindFreedom and Ray endorse nonviolence principles. Even if an individual or agency opposes Ray’s human rights, MindFreedom and Ray ask that any communication be civil.
Please be an ally for Ray Sandford in his campaign to oppose his ongoing maintenance outpatient electroshock.
Please take a policy position against involuntary electroshock over the expressed wishes of the subject.
MindFreedom has more than a dozen alerts, articles, etc. on its web site that refer to LSSMN, which you can read about here:
To try to find LSSMN’s point of view, here is their web address:
On their web site, LSSMN states they believe they have a very direct connection with the largest Lutheran Church in the USA:
“LSS is the largest, statewide non-profit social service organization in Minnesota with over 2, 200 employees who serve in 300 communities. It is owned by the six Minnesota synods of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).”
This same web site states, “Primary funding sources include ELCA and other church support, contracts for service, client fees, local United Way support, private grants, individual contributions and bequests. The 2009 budget is $90 million.”
LSSMN emphasizes its direct connection with the official branches of ELCA, one of the largest Lutheran denominations in the world. However, ELCA itself says the choice of the word “owned” is unfortunate, and they distance themselves from LSSMN, claiming they have no oversight over activities, even though LSSMN uses their name and affiliation for their benefit.
In MindFreedom Ray Alert #9, more information can be found about LSSMN:
Through his bravery, Ray has offered us all an opportunity to create dialogue. Instead, an LSSMN representative has tried to distance ELCA from the situation by saying that ELCA is “not related to the situation” except for a “loose” sponsorship of LSSMN.
ELCA’s sponsorship of LSSMN is official, financial, legal, direct, public and documented.
As we’ve seen, LSSMN’s web site states that LSSMN is “owned” by six Minnesota synods of ELCA, and credits ELCA as one of its “primary” funding sources for their 2009 budget of $90 million.
A primary funding source?
How is that “loose”? A lack of close oversight by the Lutheran Church over agencies that use their name to obtain taxpayer funds is a big part of the problem.
In Minnesota alone, Mr. Eric Jonstaard, director of LSSMN, in a public statement, said that LSSMN is responsible for 800 “vulnerable adults.” How many have experienced involuntary psychiatric drugging and electroshock? LSSMN’s Tonya Wilhelm told MindFreedom’s David Oaks that involuntary electroshock of LSSMN clients like Ray in Minnesota is “not uncommon.”
The moral failure of involuntary electroshock over the expressed wishes of the individual is not only committed by the individual flipping the switch, but by all those aware of the torture but who remain silent.
Helpful MindFreedom volunteers in Minnesota are now prohibited from even visiting Ray. Ray is kept from a follow-up visit to the Minnesota Center for Independent Living. Ray is not being offered humane alternatives to electroshock.
In a newspaper report on 18 November, Eric Jonstaard, director of LSSMN, did speak out about Ray to a reporter. Unfortunately, Mr. Jonstaard took the opportunity to chastise MindFreedom for using Ray’s full name in the Ray Campaign, as Ray has specifically and repeatedly authorized MindFreedom and NPR to do
Here is a statement that Mr. Jonstaard and a representative from ELCA put out publicly:
Statement from Evangelical Lutheran Church in America [ELCA] About Campaign Against Forced Electroshock of Ray Sandford
Date: December 16, 2008 7:36:03 AM PST
Thank you for writing concerning a story you have heard or seen in the public media. The ELCA is not related to the situation, except as a sponsor of Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota, one of 280 such organizations in the Lutheran Services in America network. Sponsorship is a fairly loose term from a churchwide perspective, and usually means that people in the area of the affiliated agency represent the church on the agency’s board, and individuals and congregations may also contribute some funding to the agency.
Here is a response from Lutheran Services in America which explains the situation about which you are concerned:
To respond to your inquiry and comments regarding a recent story about the medical situation of a vulnerable adult under a civil commitment proceeding, who also has a court appointed guardian:
As a guardian, Lutheran Social Service has both a legal and ethical duty to keep the specific details of clients’ care and treatment confidential. While we can’t discuss the client specifically, we can speak in general about how we carry out our work.
Lutheran Social Service is appointed by the court to serve as a guardian or conservator to over 800 vulnerable adults in Minnesota. We are court-appointed to take on this role when individuals lack the capacity to make decisions about their affairs and there are no family members who are either able or willing to take on that responsibility.
A civil commitment is a separate proceeding in the State of Minnesota. When a person is civilly committed, a decision to impose electroconvulsive therapy (“ECT”) is a decision made by a commitment court and not the court appointed Guardian. In the commitment process someone, normally a health care professional, brings a petition for ECT treatment for the individual. The individual is assigned an attorney and a guardian ad litem (not Lutheran Social Service) who act as advocates either to oppose or to consent to the petition. The commitment court hears evidence from medical professionals and then makes a decision on whether to impose the ECT treatment. The court decision is then appealable by the client and the client’s attorney. Under Minnesota Statute §524.5-313, a general guardian such as Lutheran Social Service has no authority to impose ECT treatment against the known conscientious, religious or moral beliefs of the individual. The general guardian is not a participant in the civil commitment process regarding the forced imposition of ECT treatment.
Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota has a long tradition of serving vulnerable children and adults, and careful systems are in place to ensure that decisions are made with the person’s best interest in mind.
Eric Jonsgaard, Senior Director
LSS Guardianship Options
I hope this helps you understand the situation, and that you will tell whoever suggested that writing to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America might help make a difference that they are misdirecting you and many other people.
Miriam L. Woolbert
ELCA Communication Services
IMPORTANT: Please note that MindFreedom International embraces the nonviolent guidelines of Gandhi and MLK. We ask that any communication with this group be civil.
Disclaimer: The information on this page is the opinion of the author, based on reports from Ray Sandford and allies, to the best of their knowledge. If there is any dispute of the facts, please let MindFreedom know.
MindFreedom has refuted a number of the points above. A key one is that the note implies LSSMN is somehow independent from ELCA. Perhaps ELCA does not provide the oversight they legally and morally ought to provide. However, LSSMN clearly lists ELCA’s six Synods in Minnesota as “owners” of this huge agency. Members of the Lutheran Church ought to provide greater oversight of agencies that use their name, especially those like LSSMN who refuse to be pro-active about extreme and persistent abuse of their clients they are charged to protect.
Again, you can read MindFreedom’s refutation in MF Ray Alert #9:
But Can A General Guardian Do Anything About Forced Electroshock of a Client
LSSMN argues they are not directly in charge of Ray’s forced electroshock. However, they could at least take steps to support his campaign, but instead they have actively taken steps to oppose his campaign. For instance, their attorney issued a letter trying to stop “dissemination” of the video of Ray and his mom begging for his shock to stop.
But more than that, in other situation similar agencies have been able to be more pro-active and creative about their role in defending and protecting their client.
LSS could “stretch” those so-called legal boundaries they cite and take action for Ray.
Consider the guardian in a similar ECT-abuse case in Canada who had no qualms about doing just that. There, 71-year-old Michael Matthews received 130 electroshocks and the hospital was now seeking to do it unlimited.
Here’s what the guardian in the Canadian case said:
…public guardian and trustee, said although her office’s authority does not extend to Matthews’ personal or health-care matters, she feels that it is important to nevertheless ‘make inquiries into the situation because of circumstances which we have been made aware of… if, for example, it appears that medical opinions are not in support of this treatment, or there are reasons to review it — and I’m not sure what our inquiry will turn up — then there are avenues of recourse we can consider on behalf of him,’ Romanko said, referring to independent medical opinions and even litigation if it came to that. She acknowledged that the Public Trustee is stretching the boundaries of its jurisdiction somewhat by delving into matters that are not strictly confined to authority over his legal and financial affairs.
The Vancouver Sun reported on the sharp increase in the number of ECT procedures, beginning in 1997, when doctors were allowed to bill MSP for each ECT treatment. Some questioned if the increase was tied to a financial incentive and in late 2000, the then-health minister, Corky Evans, said he wanted an external review of the hospital’s ECT program to find out why treatments on elderly patients had more than doubled.
The article also mentions risks to elderly patients from the general anesthesia ECT:
…there is widespread controversy over whether [ECT] is the best treatment. A Columbia University study published a year ago found that ECT is so ineffective at ridding patients of their depression that nearly all of those who receive it relapse within six months of stopping treatment. Many experts have therefore questioned whether it is a worthwhile treatment plan, given the risk posed by continually administering general anesthesia, especially to elderly patients who are known to be potentially vulnerable to worsening dementia and cognitive deficits with general anesthesia.
Here is the link about the above Canadian case:
130 shock treatments: ‘They hurt, I don’t want it’ – Public trustee’s office investigates Riverview case, by Pamela Fayerman Vancouver Sun April 17, 2002, http://tinyurl.com/djcgsy
Who are some of the people involved with LSSMN?
There are a lot of employees at LSSMN. Any of one of them could serve as whistleblowers to speak out about the way LSSMN is taking insufficent action to defend Ray. While none of them is directly responsible for Ray’s shock, each individual could take peaceful and empowered action based on their conscience to defend Day.
Here are some of the personnel at LSSMN based on their web site.
From their web site here are some of the personnel and their e-mail addresses: