Friday, December 30, 2011

Republican House Members withhold funding to important UN programs

In a straight party-line vote of 23-15, Republican members of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs passed H.R. 2829, the U.N. Transparency, Accountability, and Reform Act of 2011. Among other things, the legislation seeks to withhold funding for several important U.N. programs and initiatives. The action of the House Committee on this issue seeks to restrict U.S. participation in the Human Rights Council which had issued a groundbreaking resolution addressing violence, discrimination, and incitement to religious hatred and the first ever resolution addressing violence and discrimination against LGBT persons.

"Eliminating U.S. engagement with the Human Rights Council would undermine the global leadership of the United States and our ability to build support to advance vital human rights protections for people around the world," read the letter from The Leadership Conference.

A key provision of the bill that cuts funding to U.N. bodies tasked with implementing human rights conventions to which the U.S. is not a party, such as the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the most comprehensive women's human rights treaty. This cut in funding would undermine the U.N.'s work in advancing the rights of women worldwide.

See this letter written by the Leadership Conference sent to members of the committee on October 13, 2011. letter opposing H.R. 2829

Friday, December 2, 2011

Human Rights as a Mental Patient - What about informed consent?

What actually happened to Mark Taylor the miracle boy who survived being shot at the Columbine High School? Mark showed great strength of character to go through rehabilitation after his shooting and also great psychological resilience of spirit. Mark Taylor's recovery required multiple surgeries, an initial hospital stay of two months and the anguish of having tubes thrust down his throat and tubes placed in his side. ”The horror of what I went through in the hospital, I can’t even put in words,” said Taylor, who was shot by Eric Harris on April 20, 1999 during the Columbine High School shooting.

Mark Taylor like many other victims of trauma had to fight back against the odds; it was a long journey of physical rehabilitation as well as spiritual journey that took him from shock to understanding. Mark chose to write a book about his experiences which highlighted the importance of his Christian faith and his own pathway to forgiveness and understanding. He has forgiven shooters Harris and Dylan Klebold and their families. He has talked to gang members and Vietnam veterans about forgiveness.

See the following website:

Mark was a citizen whistleblower against the dangers of antidepressants and other psychotropic drugs. During the rigorous process of discovery prior to the legal battle with Solvay Pharmaceuticals, Mark Taylor was able to expose many dangerous truths about the pharmaceutical industry’s fraud against the American public. The pharmaceutical industry does not take kindly to this kind of exposure of their deeper secrets. Thus Mark Taylor and his mother, Donna Mae Taylor, were targeted with anonymous violence, surveillance, harassment, petty crimes, entrapment schemes and even a mysterious methane gas leak that forced Mark’s brother to seek medical care out of the state. During all this Mark was courageous and continuing to move forward with his life and sell his book.

Many of the other Columbine victims/survivors settled with the pharmaceutical company after threats that the lawsuit would ruin them financially. Mark and his mother experience continuing retaliation, threats of counter law suits, intimidation, surveillance and other forms of bullying behavior against Mark Taylor and his family. This is presumed to be intended to cause him to drop his law suit and to cease his public advocacy against antidepressants, SSRI medications and other psychotropic drugs.

In 2009 Mark Taylor was continuing to heal from his trauma and trying to continue to move forward with his life and sell his book, he was involved in television and radio show appearances and many book signings. Mark was told that he is accused of writing a letter that he would bomb a bookstore in Colorado Springs. He protests he is innocent of those accusations and that they are not true. He and his mother have no idea who started this hostile gossip.

Those with negative intent can often use the powerful mental health law to their advantage. Those wishing to silence Mark’s advocacy against the pharmaceutical drugs were suspected of being behind this fabricated allegation. Mark denies the truth of these accusations, but Mark is still grabbed by the police and put in 72 hours mental health hold in the hospital. So all it took was someone stating something and his freedom was lost, his right to face his accuser denied and his right to due process ignored. In addition he is denied his liberty and even his right to decide his own fate and medical care. He is held in incognito detention and his family is not allowed to see him for some time. During this time, those in charge of his captivity clearly get power over him – physically, emotionally, psychologically and legally. Mark is drugged against his consent, and held for a month and then let go with outpatient care but forced to take medications. Mark is then under the medical community’s monitoring and control. So suddenly Mark Taylor who has never had any due process, is not accused of any crime is now being forcibly drugged against his consent with lifelong consequences for him.

Doctors are very much influenced by what the pharmaceutical companies advertising states about these psychiatric medications. When facing a charge of mental illness, the patient is rarely believed and accusations against him readily believed. Then after that incident Mark Taylor’s mother reports that he was just walking in his neighborhood and he is suddenly confronted with police who drag him off on false pretenses that he was acting weird and they incarcerate him in a mental facility. He was admitted to the hospital. While there the mental health professionals decide to forcibly drug him with psychotropic medications without his informed consent and again refuse to let him for some time to communicate with his family. He finally was released as an outpatient but only after addicting him to psychotropic medications. Many who saw Mark prior to these hospitalizations remarked that Mark Taylor had resilience and had come a long way in his recovery. But with the use of powerful mind altering drugs, Mark slips into a state of incapacity. The very effects of the drugs make it less possible for Mark to express himself and to assert his rights as a human person. These drugs themselves cause a disruption in the ability to think. After his hospitalization the effects of the drugging on him are clearly evident. (See the video above)

In all these decisions Mark himself is not respected for what his own wishes were in regards to psychiatric medications - his views were very well known to all who heard him speak publicly and who read his book, “I Asked, God Answered … a Columbine miracle.” The medical professionals have not discussed or really explained the treatment to the family and continue to down play the very visible side effects of the drugs. Decisions about Mark's care were made by the doctors with no consultation with the family or even Mark himself. Donna Taylor continues to be concerned if Mark stays on these medications for a very long time there’s a increased risk of developing an irreversible behavioral and physical conditions.

Continued treatment with psychiatric drugs will cause significant effects and many do not realize how these powerful mind altering drugs affect patients. These psychiatric drugs block receptors in the brain and cause a decrease the flow of dopamine and serotonin - both neurotransmitters. This is why patients develop symptoms similar to Parkinson’s disease and get tired easily and move more slowly. Patients often show problems with speaking – getting the words out and also being able to think clearly and gather their thoughts.

These are the effects of the drugs themselves:

1. Psychomotor effects – muscles slowing, body not moving so well
2. Emotional indifference - not being emotionally responsive / not caring, apathy, lack of initiative, limited range of emotion,
3. Reduced initiative – not showing interest in initiating activity
4. Slowing of thought
5. Tremors
6. Difficulty eating and talking
7. Memory impairment
8. Not being able to sit still, pacing

These are not symptoms of the underlying disease - these are caused by the drugs themselves.

Thus the very effects of the drugs make it less possible for any patient to express himself and to assert his rights as a human person. These drugs themselves cause a disruption in the ability to think. High enough doses over a long period of time of many of these medications makes people quite depressed. Thus a cyclic drugging can get started with ever increasing symptoms of the drugs themselves which causes the treatment team to keep adding drug upon drug to manage the actual effects of the medications.

Mark's mother objects to the continued administration of even stronger drugs to Mark, drugs with more adverse effects that dull his mind, prevent his speech and slow his movements. She believes that he should be carefully weaned off these drugs and allowed to consider other options for mental health treatment.

Mark Taylor and his mother were staying with friends when one day Mark starts to experience an adverse effect of the very medication he was forced to take.

Mark was observed by a friend to have a short blacking out period and to be feeling these serotonin related side effects which were directly caused by the medication and his prescribed decreased dosage (caused by decreased levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin). This friend called an ambulance and Mark was admitted to the hospital – suffering from SSRI Discontinuation Syndrome – a side effect of his psychiatric medication.

Tapering off very, very, very slowly has proven the safest and most effective method of withdrawal of psychiatric medications. When discontinuing or withdrawing from a psychiatric medication that affects the brains serotonin level, a dangerous situation can occur a condition called the "SSRI Discontinuation Syndrome." When serotonergic activity dramatically decreases because the neurons aren't able to communicate properly with each other anymore. As a result of this decreased serotonergic activity, side-effects occur. Sometimes these side-effects are reported by the patient as feeling like electric shocks, zaps or shivers in the head (brain) or sometimes like “pins and needles” in the skin or like a light flickering in his/her head. These symptoms are sometimes so severe that the patient feels confused or like on the verge of blacking out or losing consciousness. These sensory disturbances may make the patient feel very confused and may involve short periods of short-term memory loss or absences. These absences are actually petit mal seizures which may be invisible to the observer and not recognized as epileptic activity.

This is an effect of the withdrawal of the prescribed drug itself - not a symptom of mental illness. It is caused by the drug.

Then the terrible tragedy of the downward spiral of more and more medication, more dangerous drugs until finally Mark was at one point according to his mother, in a coma. While all this psychiatric drugging was going on, his family was refused regular access to him and he was totally in the power of the doctors who were able to charge $700/day for his basic care and even more for treatment and diagnostics. This meant that the hospital bill was surely over a hundred thousand dollars and probably much higher.

Currently Donna Taylor is fighting for her son’s human right to not be drugged against his consent for a condition he may not even have. Mark regularly tells her that he does not want to take these medications but the doctors ignore his pleas for them to take him off or at least reduce the dosage. Donna Taylor is struggling against an entrenched mental health system where all the power lies with the hospital and the doctors and where there is little effort to respect the human rights of the patient or to honor the right of Donna Taylor as the legal guardian.

So let us review what the World Health Organization has to say about Mental Health rights.

World Health Organization’s Ten Basic Principles of Mental Health.

1. Promotion of mental health and prevention of mental disorders
2. Access to basic mental health care
3. Mental health assessments in accordance with internationally accepted principles
4. Provision of least restrictive type of mental health care
5. Self-determination
6. Right to be assisted in the exercise of self-determination
7. Availability of review procedure
8. Automatic periodical review mechanism
9. Qualified decision-maker
10. Respect of the rule of law

Everyone should benefit from the best possible measures to promote their mental well-being and to prevent mental disorders. This includes: 1) mental health promotion efforts 2) mental health prevention efforts.

Mental health care should be quality care that preserves the dignity of the patient allowing patients to cope by themselves and providing clinical and non-clinical care and a system of care that is affordable and equitable as well as accessible. Mental health care should be available on a voluntary basis.

Mental health assessments should be done in accordance with internationally accepted principles and should include: 1) diagnosis 2) choice of treatment 3) determination of competence 4) determination that someone may cause harm to self or others due to a mental disorder. They should only be done for purposes directly related to mental illness or consequences of mental illness.

The health care provided should be the least restrictive and should consider: 1) the disorder 2) available treatments 3) the person’s level of autonomy 4) the person’s acceptance and cooperation 5) the potential that harm be caused to self or others.

Community based treatment should be made available and institution-based treatments should be provided in the least restrictive environment. (Restraints should be strictly of limited duration only 4 hours for physical restraint and all restraints should be documented).

Consent is required. This includes all diagnostic procedures, medical treatment, drugs, electroconvulsive therapy and irreversible surgery and also any curtailment of liberty. Consent must also keep in mind the culture and the advice of family or friends. Consent should be free of undue influence and be informed. To be informed means to be accurately given enough information to understand the disadvantages, risks, alternatives, expected results and side effects of any treatment.

The designation of a surrogate decision maker should be made only in occasional instances and that person is empowered to make decisions in the patient’s behalf.

Persons have the right to be assisted in the exercise of self-determination if they have difficulties in general knowledge, ability to speak or other problem resulting from disability.

Mental health decisions are open to review at the request of interested parties including the person involved and should be done in a timely fashion. The patient should not be prevented to access review on the basis of his or her health status. The patient should be given an opportunity to be heard in person.

There also should be an automatic periodic review mechanism for all decisions that involve the integrity and or liberty of the person (treatment or hospitalization). These reviews should be conducted every 6 months by an official qualified decision maker. The decision making body should be more than one person and best if they are from different relevant disciplines.

A judge or other official decision maker such as a surrogate or guardian should be:
1) Competent 2) Knowledgeable 3) Independent 4) Impartial

There should be respect for the rule of law which can include the constitution, international case law, international agreements, regulations, laws, orders and decrees. The law should be accessible and understandable.

Foster Care Children Inappropriately Overdrugged

Children in foster care are a very vulnerable population having been removed from abusive or neglectful homes. These children are experiencing childhood trauma, grief at loss of their biological family, loss of their home community and often having experienced severe abuse – physical, psychological, emotional and sexual. These are children who often have experienced years of trauma leaving them with complex post traumatic stress. Thus they are prone to show the symptoms of PTSD - which is often misunderstood and therefore is often treated as other mental health conditions instead.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD is best handled by cognitive behavioral therapy – this is proven to be effective for victims/survivors of sexual assault and also survivors of combat trauma. Cognitive behavioral therapy is usually provided by a therapist or psychologist. These children have come from a home environment which is like a combat zone – domestic violence, drug dealers, drive by shootings, child sexual abuse by relatives, abusive punishments, parents with mental illness who act irrationally and arbitrarily, and other traumatic events. Psycho-social treatment has better outcomes.

Child placement agencies, foster care parents and residential treatment centers get paid a daily sum for the care of a foster child. These allocated amounts are based on the federal entitlement system IV-e and are based on the level of care the child needs. The more difficult the child is to care for the higher the daily payment for care. Thus it is in the interest of the state agencies, social service workers, foster parents, and therapeutic clinicians to make the child appear on paper to need the highest level of care possible. Many foster children are labeled with more than one psychological diagnosis in order to upgrade their status to a higher level. Foster care daily rates run from $17 per day to $1,000 per day. To those in the business of providing welfare medical services, a child diagnosed with a mental disorder and placed on psychiatric drugs provides more income than a child without problems. In addition pharmaceutical companies often provide a "finders fee" to doctors who find additional children to place in clinical trials of drugs for "off label use". Psychiatrists who prescribe these medications according to pharmaceutical company directives are rewarded with paid educational conferences and continuing education credits, research funding and priority for selection to serve on prestigious posts at universities and on governmental agencies or public commissions. Talk therapy is not the usual work of psychiatrists in this modern age of mind altering psychiatric medications. Instead the standard psychiatrist is a clinician who uses drugs to alter behavior and spends very direct face to face time with patients. Prescribing psychiatrists are only required to spend 15 minutes every 90 days with their patient in order to collect their professional fee as a patient's doctor.

Thousands of foster children are routinely prescribed doses of psychotropic drugs that are higher than the maximum levels cited in guidelines based on FDA approved labels. This increases the potential for adverse side effects and does not typically increase the efficacy of the drugs to any appreciable extent. Even children as young as one year old were prescribed psychiatric drugs even though there were no mental health conditions in infants which would warrant their use. This certainly could result in serious adverse effects including metabolic and cardiovascular problems.

A 3 year old girl in Kansas died as a result of being overdosed on Seroquel. Both parents were former drug addicts and both diagnosed with bipolar disorder. This 3 year old girl starts acting out, banging her head against the wall, and even tried to suffocate a dog. The little girl who was only 37 pounds was prescribed 6o mgs/day.

Many of these drugs cause symptoms that can themselves be construed as mental illness. The side effects of these drugs include suicidal thoughts, loss of coordination, hallucinations, kidney, thyroid, liver and pancreas damage, polycystic ovaries, weight gain, diabetes, tremors, potentially fatal neuroleptic malignant syndrome, rigidity, tardive dyskinesia, depression, agitation, sleeplessness, nightmares, blurred vision, decreased appetite, tics, and psychosis. As a class of drugs SSRIs can create a unique combination of side effects that may severely impair judgment and impulse control in individual patients. Excessive doses of antidepressants can cause brain dysfunctions including disorientation, confusion, and cognitive disturbances. The FDA warning specifically links antidepressant use to suicidal behavior in four percent of kids on these drugs compared to two percent for kids on placebos.

When the children show these symptoms they are often given higher doses of the drugs or even additional drugs, rather than being given lower dosages or taken off these medications. So a spiral occurs of increasing dosages of more powerful drugs leading to great symptoms and decreasing function of the child. When the child becomes unmanageable, they are placed in a residential treatment facility at $700 or more a day for weeks sometimes much longer. If the psychiatrist wants to change their medication and get them “habituated” on a new medication the child might be hospitalized for half a year or more. This all happens at the US taxpayers’ expense.

In an effort to expand the market for psychiatric drugs, pharmaceutical companies capitalized on the use of foster children to test their products on this vulnerable population. These children were not given the right to informed consent, they were wards of the court in a judicial system that is overworked and understaffed and where even CASA volunteers have little time to carefully review FDA information or scientific literature about the safety or effectiveness of prescribed medications. The legal surrogate decision makers for the child are not medically trained and often accept blindly the advice of the treating psychiatrist. No information about the long term consequences of the use of these medications in children is given to these decision makers so crisis decision making is the norm with the pills looking like the perfect quick fix. In addition the pharmaceutical industry has for decades controlled the release of negative information about their products by controlling all the publicity of research findings (funded by the industry), using an aggressive legal campaign to shut down any malpractice law suit¸ out of court settlements with gag orders for silence and suppressing court documents from discovery by having them sealed by the judge.

Through aggressive marketing to medical professionals, teachers, CASA volunteers, welfare case managers, and guardians, the pharmaceutical companies have now pushed the treatment of children for such mental diseases as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), bipolar disorder, depression and schizophrenia, often diagnosing them for these problems so as to use psychiatric medications “off label”. The Teen Screen program which pushed psychiatric drugs on school children is an example of this direct marketing by pharmaceutical companies. The pharmaceutical industry has placed industry representatives on major governmental panels and commissions order to influence policy to facilitate passing legislation that would approve the Medicaid payment of psychiatric medications for “off label” uses. But these drugs are not without risk, there are serious side-effects, including irreversible movement disorders, seizures, and increased risk of diabetes. Many patients who take these drugs also develop over time Parkinsonian side effects.

The prescription of these drugs is oftentimes very questionable and inappropriate prescribing to youth in state custody has lead to increased costs to the US taxpayer over the lifetime of the child. These children, who are often medicated with up to 5 drugs at the same time, have cognitive impairment, as well as physical dependency on the drugs. When they try to stop the medications they face severe withdrawal symptoms for up to 6 months and these symptoms can be misunderstood and the child instead re-drugged at high dosages. No study has been done to see if these foster children who were highly medicated were able to go on to productive independent lives after leaving foster care. During their years in foster care, many have been in and out of residential treatment, leading to disruption in their schooling. In addition these drugs change the child’s ability to think, reason, and also dull emotional awareness and response. This makes it difficult to learn and to relate to peers and their foster/adoptive family.

When they age out of the foster care system, they find themselves thrown out into a world that labels them as mental misfits, treats them with disrespect and forces them into being repeat users of the psychiatric industry/medical complex. Many end up in prison and then are force drugged by court order in prison and when they are released court ordered medicated for life. The costs of the repeat hospitalizations – at $700 -$1,000 a day along with the cost of medications at tens of thousands of dollars a year, is a cost borne by the US taxpayer often until the former foster child’s death.

Although these drugs produce no tolerance and no euphoria, they produce enduring post-discontinuation changes that are as extensive and long lasting as the changes underpinning current disease models of addiction. Patients also get withdrawal or discontinuation syndromes when they stop taking their medication or when their medication is lowered in dose. So when a patient runs out of medication or is suddenly put on a lower dosage they can demonstrate exacerbation of their clinical signs. Therapeutic dependence can be lifelong and thus the cost to the US taxpayer is also for the life of the foster child who often transitions into a life long welfare recipient or a prison inmate.

The danger of withdrawal from antidepressants and antipsychotics is well documented. The brain compensates for the blockage of the serotonin and dopamine receptors by growing additional receptors for these neurotransmitters. When the medications are discontinued or suddenly decreased, these additional receptors contribute to 'overload' of serotonin and dopamine flooding the receptor. This is known as discontinuation syndrome. What usually happens to the patient in withdrawal is that they end up back in the hospital again. These crisis admissions lead to being labeled with a new disease diagnosis – schizophrenia, or delusional or manic depressive and then placed on even greater dosages of even more dangerous drugs. The doctors in these instances are quick to blame the patient, for a relapse rather than considering when the patient last took his medication. Discontinuation syndrome can sometimes last for weeks or months - some people have said they can last as long as six months.

It has been estimated that 70% of the US prison population was once in foster care. Three in 10 of the nation's homeless adults report foster care history and this points to an obvious problem within our social service network. There are inadequacies in supervision of the placement of these children, clear indications of corruption within the system as well as neglect of the children’s needs. These traumatized children need us to protect them from abuse as human subjects for unauthorized research and we must as a nation be more careful in authorizing Medicaid payments for “off label use” of psychiatric drugs in our foster care system .