Supporters of more involuntary procedures in psychiatry have been divided when it comes to forced electroshock. Fred Frese is one of those with mixed feelings.
As you all know, we at MindFreedom have a campaign about one of the worst case scenarios in psychiatry, the unimaginable.
This is an intersection of four very mean streets:
- Involuntary psychiatry — Forced procedures in mental health form psychiatry’s biggest controversy. Last year in 2007 I participated in a World Psychiatric Association special conference on this topic, that was held in Dresden.
- Electroshock — The American Medical Association called this one of the most controversial procedures in all of medicine.
- Outpatient forced treatment — Quietly, more than 40 states have passed laws allowing judges to court order people to take psychiatric treatment while living out in the community in their own homes. This takes the back ward and puts it on your front porch.
- Maintenance electroshock — Many people don’t know this, but some electroshock doctors believe in their procedure so much, and the relapse rate is so high, that they recommend ongoing weekly electroshocks. We’ve seen people get more than 100 electroshocks.
Combine all the above and you are facing what Ray Sandford is facing. Each Wednesday he is escorted from his home for a weekly involuntary outpatient maintenance electroshock.
I’d like to point something out.
A few years ago I talked to a board member for a group that is promoting more and more forced psychiatry.
The organization Treatment Advocacy Center is heavily funded by the millionaire Stanley family. TAC is headed by the extremist psychiatrist E. Fuller Torrey, who has devoted much of his career to passing laws to make it easier to force people to have psychiatric procedures.
TAC’s specialty has been promoting more and more involuntary outpatient psychiatry laws, what they euphemistically try to call “assisted treatment,” but that’s like calling a ball and chain “assisted jewelry.”
Fred Frese, PhD is a person who himself has experienced forced psychiatric procedures. At one point he was threatened with forced electroshock though he says he managed to “dodge it.” Fred ended up on the TAC board because unfortunately he supports some types of forced psychiatric drugging
Well, Fred told me that one day a TAC board member D. J. Jaffe proposed at a TAC board meeting that TAC promote laws making it easier to administer involuntary electroshock in New York State. Fred said he got so mad at the meeting he raised his voice. He spoke up. He spoke out. I’m kind of surprised, because I haven’t seen Fred get mad at much at all.
Fred told me he said in no uncertain terms he would absolutely oppose D. J. Jaffe’s suggestion. Fred said the rest of the board supported Fred, and he carried the day.
I’m glad, Fred.
Other groups have been tricked into supporting forced electroshock.
At one time Dr. Torrey worked closely with Dr. Sidney Wolfe over at the supposedly-progressive and famous Public Citizen. Back in the early days of MindFreedom we did a Freedom of Information Act request on the federal government’s investigation of forced electroshock to find out why a campaign was stalled. Turns out Dr. Torrey had used Public Citizen letterhead to oppose a federal campaign targeting forced electroshock!
Public Citizen has since apparently taken its letterhead against Dr. Torrey, but that letter has left a permanent mark on the record of this public interest group.
TAC was luckier.
Even the extremist group TAC has had a divided board meeting when it comes to campaigning for laws making it easier to administer involuntary electroshock.
But isn’t sch a campaign the logical end result of TAC’s extremist crusade for more and more forced psychiatry? Even if the letter of the laws they promote don’t push forced electroshock, doesn’t the spirit of the crusade end up with this kind of tragedy?
Doesn’t such a horror follow from TAC’s crusade?
And what about the old days of forced psychosurgery?
Mental health is a complex topic, but as difficult as it may be society needs to draw lines.
Where exactly does TAC, and society itself, draw the line?
We ought to certainly draw the line at extremely intrusive and potentially irreversible controversial procedures like electroshock, sterilization, psychosurgery When it comes to electroshock, MindFreedom’s position is the same as the general public: “No” ought to mean “no.” Involuntary electroshock is wrong, in all cases, and the World Health Organization agrees.
And even the most extremist group in this field apparently can’t agree on supporting a campaign for more forced electroshock.
Fred is still a board member on TAC. You can see his bio on the TAC web site here. I talked to Fred today on the phone and he continues to have mixed feelings about a lot of things, including some types of forced electroshock.
In fact, I asked Fred where he does absolutely draw the line, if anywhere? Do we have any common ground?
Fred said he would absolutely oppose killing people with psychiatric diagnoses, such as through gas chambers.
That’s it, Fred? That’s all you got?
No absolute stand against all forced psychosurgery, period? Against all forced sterilization, period? No exceptions?
In any case, hopefully Fred will continue to stand strong against attempts by folks like D. J. Jaffe to promote crusades for laws making it easier to force electroshock over the expressed wishes of the subject.
Don’t cave in Fred, even more than you already have.