On 29 July 2003, Dr. Birkel responded to the Fast for Freedom. The strikers and scientific panel reviewed Dr. Birkel’s response, and today they sent him a reply that, “Our request still stands.”
BELOW is the hunger striker’s reply followed by Dr. Birkel’s original response.
4 August 2003
To: Rick C. Birkel, Ph.D., Executive Director National Alliance for the Mentally Ill
Thank you for your reply to our Fast for Freedom in Mental Health Statement.
Like you, we deplore the conditions under which our sisters and brothers, labeled mentally ill, suffer on a daily basis.
However, unlike the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, we ask:
“How much of their ill treatment derives from viewing them as diseased organisms, with deficient genes and broken brains? How much of the stigma they endure results from seeing them as helpless creatures controlled by forces that only drugs can subdue?”
For this is precisely the message that NAMI and its allies have been pushing intently for the last 24 years. So far, all indications are that this message has not made things better for those whom you say you represent. On the contrary, it appears to have made things much worse.
The individuals involved in this Fast for Freedom have all suffered at the hands of those who would have taken away their humanity. Respectfully, they ask only for orthodox scientific evidence to back the claims that NAMI, the APA, and the Surgeon General’s office have consistently made and promoted.
In response, representing NAMI, you claim the moral high ground and rebuke us for engaging in “ideological” pursuits.
For our sisters and brothers who are forcibly drugged with dangerous and brain damaging drugs… for our sisters and brothers who are experiencing electroshock, solitary confinement, restraints, institutionalization… for our sisters and brothers who desperately seek a choice of humane and empowering alternatives, this is not a question of ideology. This is a question of life or death.
Our request still stands.
We remain open to receiving scientific evidence for your claims at the following addresses and numbers:
Stuart Shipko, MD
97 W. Bellevue Dr.
Pasadena, CA 91105
Fax: (626) 795-3527
E-mail: Al Galves
[signed] Fast for Freedom Hunger Strikers & Scientific Panel