Thursday, July 28, 2005


News from Mental Patients Liberation Alliance (The Alliance)
For more information: George Ebert (315) 947-5888 or


Court Ordered Shock Treatment Severely Limited in New York State

ALBANY, NY -- (07/16/2005; 1700)(EIS) -- Some human rights activists are celebrating a significant victory with the release of an "ECT Position Statement" by the New York State Office of Mental Health that restricts the ability and sets rigid conditions prior to an application of court ordered "Electronic Convulsive Therapy (ECT)". The document was presented to members and friends of the Mental Patients Liberation Alliance on July 15, 2005 as they were preparing to enter into the eighth day of a vigil and fast at the State Capitol Building in Albany, New York.

A group of people had gathered in Albany on July 8th to begin a vigil and to fast and/or pray until the "death of forced shock treatment". The event marked The Alliance's 25th Annual Bastille Day Celebration/ Demonstration and was part of a simultaneous event coordinated through MindFreedom, an international coalition that represents over 100 human rights organizations that work to call attention to the failures of mental health systems.

Activists in New York State were particularly concerned with recent legislation that extended the State's Involuntary Outpatient Commitment Law [MHL 9.60] (Kendra's Law) for five years. Under that law, people who have broken no criminal or civil law may be court-ordered to receive invasive psychiatric drugs or shock treatmentover their objection.

An outcome report on the past three years the law was in effect was released this spring by the State Office of Mental Heath. That report states that nearly 4,000 people in New York State were ordered to receive "Assisted Community Treatment". Approximately 80% of these people had no history of violence or alleged violence - well below the numbers of the "general population". While the report does not address the use of court-ordered shock treatment through this "community support service", information provided by the Office of Mental Health indicates that 33 people in New York State received court-ordered shock treatment in 2003, and 84 ! people received court-ordered shock in 2004. These are the only years that numbers are available.

No report has effectively measured the incidence of "forced treatment by coercion" that results in "voluntary consent" to drugging and shock. Experiences by activists and advocates, as well as the reports to them by many others involved with the mental health system, make clear that coercion is rampant within that system. Coercion includes the manipulation or disregard of factual information, undue and/or misguided pressure on an individual to agree to a course of action, jeopardy of selected services such as housing, persuasion to comply with a course of action backed by a threat of securing compliance court-ordered, and otherwise compelling "consent" under duress.

The ECT Position Paper by the New York State Office of Mental Health provides in part that no person receiving voluntary treatment can receive shock involuntarily. It also provides that an advance directive created when an individual's capacity was not questioned will be honored when that person's capacity is under scrutiny. A personal directive forbidding shock, therefore, will be honored even when the current capacity of an individual is in question.

The members and friends of The Alliance understand that this victory is an "incremental advance" realized after 30 years of work towards their effort to stop forced treatment.


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