In 1992, U.S. Representative Patricia Schroeder of
A headline on the front page of the July 6, 1986
In the February 1988 Stanford Law Journal Lois A. Weithorn, Ph.D., a former
Psychiatric and psychological 'diagnosis' is arbitrary and unreliable. Furthermore, the supposed experts responsible for these 'diagnoses' are usually biased in favor of commitment because of their personal economic concerns or their affiliation with the psychiatric 'hospital' where the 'patient' is or will be confined. Psychiatric 'hospitals', like all businesses, need customers. In the case of psychiatric 'hospitals', they need patients. They not only want patients, they need them to stay in business. Similarly, individual psychiatrists and psychologists need patients to make money and earn a living. A magazine article published in 1992 criticizing the trend towards locking up troublesome teenagers alleged that teenagers are locked up in psychiatric hospitals today more than in the past because 'busy parents are less willing to deal with their behavior and because inpatient psychiatric business represents a profitable market in the health-care field.' The result has been an increase in the number of psychiatric hospitals in recent years, 'from 220 in 1984 to 341 in 1988'. This increase in the number of psychiatric hospitals has resulted in keen competition between hospitals and psychiatrists for patients. 'Keeping all those psychiatric beds filled is critical, and administrators are aggressively ensuring that they will be. Hard-sell TV, radio, and magazine ads (up to tenfold in the past few years, according to
In her book And They Call It Help - The Psychiatric Policing of America's Children, published in 1993, Louise Armstrong laments 'the 65 percent of kids in private, for-profit psych hospitals who simply do not need to be there but are given severe-sounding labels nonetheless' (Addison-Wesley Pub.
Unjustified involuntary commitment to psychiatric hospitals has become so blatant Reader's Digest published an article in the July 1992 issue exposing the unethical practice:
'Similar storm clouds are appearing over the mental - health field. Alarmed by exploding costs, insurance companies began scrutinizing payments more carefully - and ultimately trimmed the average patient's length of hospital stay. As a result, 'private hospitals that once made a great deal of money are now desperate for patients,' says Dr. Alan Stone, former president of the American Psychiatric Association.
'That desperation has opened the door for fraud. Among the alleged abuses: patients abducted by 'bounty hunters'; others hospitalized against their will until their insurance runs out; diagnoses and treatments tailored to maximize insurance reimbursement; kickbacks for recruiting patients; unnecessary treatments; gross overbilling.
'The most infamous charges were leveled in
'Family members believed the agents to be law-enforcement officers. If Jeramy didn't cooperate, the agents said, they could obtain a warrant and have him detained for 28 days. 'They acted just like the Gestapo,' the boy's grandmother - and legal guardian - later told a
'According to that testimony, Jeramy was denied any contact with his family for six days and released only after a state senator [Frank Tejeda, now in Congress] intervened. State officials discovered the boy had been ordered detained by a staff doctor after his disturbed younger brother lied about Jeramy's supposed drug use. The guards who brought him in worked for a private firm paid by Colonial Hills for each patient delivered.
'Soon after the ordeal, the Harrells got a bill for Jeramy's six-day stay, a stunning $11,000. The hospital's owner denied any wrongdoing.
'The Harrell case led to those
In 1991 or 1992 an administrator at a psychiatric 'hospital' told me competition between psychiatric hospitals is what she called 'cut throat'. Combine this intense competition with America's poorly written involuntary commitment laws and judges who refuse to impose protection from unwarranted commitment that bona-fide due process requires, and the result is a lot of people being deprived of liberty and suffering psychiatric stigma unjustifiably. In the field of so-called mental health where large amounts of money can be made, in large part because of health insurance, and where there is a competitive environment where there are too few psychiatric 'patients' to fill psychiatric beds, self-interest biases the supposed psychiatric or psychological experts in favor of a 'diagnosis' which justifies commitment, including involuntary commitment where necessary. As Harvard Law professor Alan M. Dershowitz has said, psychiatry 'is not a scientific discipline' ('Clash of Testimony in Hinkley Trial Has Psychiatrists Worried Over Image', The New York Times May 24, 1982, p. 11). The opinion of many legislators and judges that impartiality, objectivity, and scientific expertise of mental health professionals makes the kind of due process needed elsewhere unnecessary in psychiatric commitment is mistaken.
As was noted in the above quoted Reader's Digest article, much of this unjustified involuntary psychiatric commitment of normal and law-abiding people to the prisons called psychiatric hospitals is motivated by the financial needs of psychiatric hospitals and the people who work in them. Although it has been reaching newspaper headlines in only the last several years, unwarranted psychiatric commitment has been going on for over a century, including in the
What is most needed is recognition that there is no such thing as 'mental illness'. That alone undermines the justification for most involuntarily imposed so-called psychiatric care. Rather than being a bona-fide illness, the mental 'illness' label is value judgment about a person's behavior. But as long as incarceration for so-called mental illness continues, those accused of it should be given the same rights as defendants in criminal cases.
Far from anything idealistic like law or concern for human rights, the primary forces curtailing unnecessary involuntary psychiatric 'hospitalization' in the
Insurance fraud involving psychiatrists treating people who do not want or need treatment illustrates a more serious underlying problem that still has not been adequately addressed: Loss of liberty based on the opinions of psychiatrists rather than on unlawful conduct by the accused has no place in a nation that claims to respect the rights of each individual.
THE AUTHOR, Lawrence Stevens, is a lawyer whose practice has included representing psychiatric 'patients'. His pamphlets are not copyrighted. You are invited to make copies for those who you feel will benefit.
'The confusing aspect about this is that many adolescents are irritable, aggressive, and impulsive because they are upset about their life circumstances. In recent years some of these teenagers have found their way into psychiatric hospitals, labeled with the diagnosis of bipolar disorder and placed on medications. Some psychiatric hospitals made a practice of admitting adolescents in distress, using the diagnosis of bipolar disorder inappropriately in order to increase their billing to insurance companies. This practice was so widespread that the federal government finally intervened, charging the hospitals with fraud and assessing fines of millions of dollars. Many of these children did not have bipolar disorder at all, but were acting inappropriately because of stresses in their families, with their friends, and at school.' Edward Drummond, M.D., Associate Medical Director at Seacoast Mental Health Center in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, in his book The Complete Guide to Psychiatric Drugs (John Wiley & Sons, Inc., New York, 2000), pages 13-14. Dr. Drummond graduated from Tufts University School of Medicine and was trained in psychiatry at
Awards $3.4 million for Unjustified Psychiatric Commitment - Associated
Press article published in
'Mental illness reform threatens to strap patients, consumers' by Eugene H. Methvin - previously published in National Review magazine under the title 'Cuckoo's Nest,' July 15, 1996, page 38.
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