Legislative News
for Antipsychiatry Activists


New Hampshire HB573, a bill to allow nurse practitioners to involuntarily commit people to mental hospitals, passed in the House of Representatives on April 5, 2001.  Douglas A. Smith, the web master of this web site, sent all 21 members of the committee that considered the bill a letter opposing it:  Click here to read it.  The bill will now be considered by the New Hampshire state senate.

New Hampshire Legislators refuse to ban ECT, psychosurgery, and insulin shock on children under 16 years of age
On February 20, 2001, the New Hampshire House of Representatives Health, Human Services, and Elderly Affairs Committee held a public hearing during which almost all of the Committee's 21 members heard arguments for and against House Bill 406, which if passed would have banned electroconvulsive "therapy" (ECT), psychosurgery, and insulin shock (insulin coma) therapy on persons under the age of 16 in New Hampshire.  Most of the argument presented focused on the claimed benefit or harm from ECT for persons of any age.  HB406's sponsor, Rep. Russell Albert, told the committee he is sponsoring the bill because of the harmful effects of ECT he observed in other soldiers who received it after returning from the Korean War.  When asked why ECT should be banned only for persons under the age of 16, Rep. Albert said HB406 is "a start" - implying that he would like to in the future introduce legislation to create further restrictions or a statewide ban on ECT for persons of any age.  Psychiatrists who administer ECT told the Committee members that ECT is effective against both "depression" and psychosis, that ECT is "safe," and that there is no credible evidence that ECT causes brain damage, long term memory loss, lost learning ability, or any other mental impairment - other than minor loss of memory for the time surrounding the treatment.  They made the usual arguments that ECT as it is done today is very different from years ago because of the addition of a muscle paralyzing drug and anesthesia - overlooking the fact that neither in any way reduces what the electricity does to the brain.  (See Psychiatry's Electroconvulsive Shock Treatment - A Crime Against Humanity for the truth about this.)  The psychiatrists' testimony accepted the concept of biological or "endogenous" depression (the most common supposed illness for which ECT is given) as if it were an unquestioned fact.  (See The Myth of Biological Depression for a refutation of this assertion.)  One witnesses supporting HB406 gave the legislators a demonstration of the amount of current used in ECT by using it to illuminate a light bulb and, to show the higher power of the pulse current used in newer ECT devices, ran pulse current through a wire, causing it to instantly burn out with a loud, audible "pop" that made at least one of the legislators jump.  Other witnesses presented evidence of permanent brain damage, permanent memory loss, and permanent loss of cognitive ability from ECT from published studies or their own experience or that of persons they know who have had ECT.
      The following day, February 21, 2001, the Health, Human Services, and Elderly Affairs Committee voted 14 to 1 to kill the bill (finding it "inexpedient to legislate").  One member of the Committee, Vice-chairman Andre Martel, had previously said he would support the bill, but he changed his mind and voted to kill it.  Later, when asked why, Rep. Martel said he was persuaded by the psychiatrists who appeared before the Committee who said ECT is effective and safe and denied there is any credible evidence ECT damages the brain.
      On March 8, 2001, the whole House of Representatives, on a voice vote, voted to kill the bill as recommended by the Committee.
      For a good article summarizing the evidence that ECT damages the brain, see John Friedberg, M.D., "Shock Treatment, Brain Damage, and Memory Loss: A Neurological Perspective", American Journal of Psychiatry, Vol. 134, No. 9 (September 1977), p. 1010.
      If you are not familiar with psychosurgery, read The Brain Butchery Called Psychosurgery by Lawrence Stevens, J.D.
      As a result of this legislative action, children as well as adults will continue to be at risk of being subjected to these brain-damaging "treatments" in New Hampshire.
      We should all thank the three sponsors of this bill, Rep. Russell Albert, Rep. Greg A. Salts, and Rep. Daniel C. Itse - and Rep. Janeen Dalrymple, who was the one member of the Health, Human Services, and Elderly Affairs committee who voted against finding the bill "inexpedient to legislate."  Rep. Dalrymple is a registered nurse who supported the bill because, as a nurse giving medication to a patient who had just had ECT, she asked him his name, and his mind was so damaged by ECT he couldn't remember.

Effort to create a right to jury trial in civil commitment for mental illness gets nowhere in several states because of legislators' apathy
After contacting legislators in Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Florida, Douglas A. Smith, an antipsychiatry activist and webmaster of this web site, has been unable to find a sponsor for legislation to create a right to jury trial in civil commitment for mental illness in these states, with the exception of New Hampshire, where a state legislator agreed to sponsor such a bill, submitted a request for the drafting of the bill in December 2000 to the Legislature's Legislative Drafting Service, and then withdrew the request in January 2001.
      Right now, the right to jury trial in civil commitment for mental illness exists in 19 of the 50 states of the U.S.A. and in the nation's capitol, the District of Columbia.  Those 19 states include the largest states - California, Texas, and New York - so a majority of Americans do have a right to jury trial in civil commitment for mental illness.  The state constitutions of every state of the U.S.A. except Louisiana and arguably New Jersey protect it, but only in the states of California, Texas, New York, Tennessee, and Washington have the state supreme courts upheld the right to jury trial in civil commitment for mental illness as a state constitutional right.  The U.S. Supreme Court has not ruled on whether it is a right under the U.S. Constitution.
      The effort in Florida included contacting all 11 members of the Florida Senate Committee on Health, Aging, and Long-Term Care and all 11 members of the Florida Senate Judiciary Committee as well as other members of the Florida House and Senate.  Florida Governor Jeb Bush responded to a letter with a telephone call from a member of his staff who said the Governor favors significant changes in Florida mental health law; however, he did not take a position on a right to trial by jury in civil commitment for mental illness.
      Massachusetts state senator Therese Murray has successfully sponsored legislation to shorten the time a person may be held in a psychiatric institution involuntarily without a hearing (by a judge with no jury), but she and her staff are apparently so inundated with mail and so preoccupied with other matters that they have not responded to repeated requests (by ink-on-paper letters with supporting documentation, e-mail, and several telephone calls) to even consider sponsoring a bill to create a right to jury trial in civil commitment for mental illness in Massachusetts.
      Other legislators in these states have not responded to or even acknowledged inquiries by e-mail, regular mail, or telephone about whether the senator or representative might be interested in sponsoring a bill to create a statutory right to jury trial in civil commitment for mental illness, except in many cases by sending an "auto-response" form letter, by e-mail, implying if not stating outright that the legislator doesn't take e-mail seriously and that if you really want anything, send a letter requesting it by regular mail.
      So far, only one of the legislators in any of these states has said she would probably vote against a bill to create a right to jury trial in civil commitment for mental illness.  In contrast, many have said they would vote in favor of such a bill.  The problem everywhere is apathy and preoccupation with higher legislative priorities, not opposition.
      However, the New Hampshire legislator who submitted and then withdrew a request for drafting of a bill to create a right to jury trial in civil commitment for mental illness has promised to re-submit it in the next legislative session, and several other New Hampshire legislators including one particularly influential representative who is an attorney who has carefully studied the right to jury trial in civil commitment for mental illness have said they will be co-sponsors.

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