Britney Spears has eloquently put an issue on the plate for all of us – listen Here – an issue that can affect all of us. Jim Gottstein has devoted a lifetime to grappling with this issue and recently wrote The Zyprexa Papers a book that features Bill Bigley, who was in a very similar position to Britney. Jim has written the post below.
Britney Spears’ very public conservatorship nightmare has brought public attention to a common form of human rights abuse and I hope this will contribute to the public discourse in important ways.
Foremost among these is the role that a morally and scientific bereft psychiatry plays. I recently had an online conversation on Britney Spears, conservatorship, and psychiatric power with the terrific Laura Delano and Dr. David Cohen late last month which might also be of interest.
First, though, I may need to apologize to Ms. Spears for invading her privacy by talking and writing about her situation. I say, “may” because Ms. Spears testified she wants the public to know how she feels and what is going on. Fundamentally, it is the public exposure of her plight that is her only real hope for freedom. The same can’t be said for the tens of thousands of people under abusive, even deadly, conservatorships, or guardianships as they are called in most states. Even so, it has to be uncomfortable for her at the least, and possibly mortifying, to have people discussing and opining on her personal life and mental health. Ms. Spears’ public mortification has the potential of helping those tens of thousands of people without her celebrity gain their freedom and I hope she will consider that some consolation. That is the point of this piece. Still, I will limit discussing the details of Ms. Spears’ personal life to the minimum.
To me it is clear the things Britney did 13 years ago leading to the conservatorship imposed on her were understandable reactions to what was going on in her life, especially the pervasive paparazzi presence. Attacking a car with an umbrella was actually a pretty restrained response to the paparazzi provocations. She was concerned about exposing herself and her baby to the paparazzi surrounding her car while strapping her baby into his car seat in the back so she put him on her lap to get them to safety. For this her baby was taken away from her? She was ahead of her time in shaving her head.
In The New York Times’ documentary Framing Britney Spears Michael Moore was on Larry King Live at the time this was all going on and asks, “Why don’t we just leave her alone? Why don’t we just let her go on with her life.” (44:10). This was exactly right. Who among us would have done any better under the circumstances?
So, how did Britney’s understandable reactions lead to her virtually complete loss of autonomy? Being put in the legal status of a small child?
Well, her father, Jamie, of course, but it was psychiatry that enabled him to strip Ms. Spears of her autonomy. Psychiatry, and the court, of course. And the lawyer who was appointed to pretend to represent her. In the Framing Britney Spears documentary, the lawyer Britney wanted to hire talks about meeting with her to make sure she was competent to hire him and determined that she was. However, the court denied Britney the right to choose him, citing a secret psychiatric report that it wouldn’t even let Britney’s chosen lawyer see.
What has been inflicted on Ms. Spears through a supposedly benevolent legal process are emblematic of many problems in the conservatorship/guardianship process, including psychiatry’s enabling of it.
Conservatorships/Guardianships are used to take people’s rights away on the grounds that the person is not competent to make decisions. This is also called not having the “capacity” to make decisions. Psychiatrists are invariably called in to testify the person is not competent or lacks capacity. However, lay people are just as good–actually better–at making such determinations. There is a terrific book, published in 1984, now available as a free download, by psychiatrist Lee Coleman, titled The Reign of Error, in which he shows not only how psychiatric expert opinions do not meet the standard requirements for being admissible in court, they are often absurd.
Psychiatrists haven’t gotten any better since then. That they are still allowed to testify as experts can only be understood because society wants cover to take away people’s rights in certain situations. It is not just guardianships/conservatorships. Inaccurate and invalid psychiatric testimony is used to take children away from parents, usually mothers; psychiatrically imprison people, euphemistically called “involuntary commitment;” and force unwanted, unhelpful, counterproductive and harmful drugs into people. Even electroshock people against their will. This is all fueled by invalid so-called “expert” psychiatric testimony.
The whole concept of taking away people’s rights to make decisions is fundamentally flawed. Rather than taking away someone’s right to make decisions for themselves they should be given support to make their own decisions. In fact, this is required in Article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).
Equal recognition before the law
(emphasis added). All of the underlined portions have been denied to Ms. Spears.
President Obama signed the CRPD in 2009, but it has not been ratified by the United States Senate. Even if it were to be ratified, the U.S. normally adopts declarations and reservations to the effect that no changes in U.S. law are necessary because the U.S. is already in full compliance. And even if ratified, U.S. citizens would have no right to enforce it in the courts. It is possible to take a case to the United Nations, but even if one were to win there it wouldn’t be enforceable in the United States. Still, it would establish an important point.
The premise of guardianships/conservatorships is the person is incapable of making good decisions and therefore someone must step in to make decisions that are in their “best interest.” There are so many things wrong with this concept a whole book could be written about it—and probably has. I am not at all a fan of President Reagan, but there is a lot of truth when he said, “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: ‘I’m from the Government, and I’m here to help,’ ” at least when psychiatry is involved.
People make decisions that are not in their best interests all the time, and it is only when psychiatrists are pulled into the picture are their rights to make decisions taken away. It appears a primary motivator for Jamie Spears to take over his daughter’s life was the concern that she was going to squander her money under the undue influence of her manager at the time, Sam Lutfi. Under § 1801(b) of the California Probate Code, a Conservatorship of the Estate, meaning the person’s property, including money, can be imposed if the person is “substantially unable to manage his or her own financial resources or resist fraud or undue influence.” “Substantially” is a pretty slim and ambiguous basis to take away a person’s right to control their property.
Managers rip off celebrities all the time, or they otherwise squander their money, and the right to make decisions is not taken from them. What is the difference? Psychiatry is called in to say they have something wrong with their brain and are not competent to make their own decisions.
Completely ignored is people learn from their mistakes. Taking away people’s right to make mistakes takes away their right to learn from their mistakes. But, one might say, “what if someone is mentally ill?” Leaving aside that there is no convincing evidence what gets diagnosed as mental illness has anything to do with brain pathology, it is still exactly the wrong thing to say to the person, “there is something incurably wrong with your brain and you are not responsible for your actions.” If people have deficits they should be given support to make their own decisions. This is what the CRPD requires. If someone is truly incapacitated, such as being unconscious after an accident, there are other mechanisms.
Under § 1801(a) of the California Probate Code a conservatorship of the person, which is called guardianship in most states, can be imposed if the person is, “unable to provide properly for his or her personal needs for physical health, food, clothing, or shelter.” What the hell does “properly” mean? I looked at the cases I could find, almost all of which are “unpublished” and therefore not “precedent,” and it seems to mean whatever the judge thinks it means.
The degree to which guardians can harm their wards is illustrated in my book, The Zyprexa Papers. After I had proven the psychiatric drugs they wanted to force into my client, Bill Bigley, were going to shorten his life, his guardian testified they should do it anyway because, “We have to look at the quality of his life . . . quality of life may even be more important than the quantity.” That Bill preferred not taking the drugs, in other words that his quality of life was better when he was not forced to take the drugs, was irrelevant. Whose quality of life is it anyway? The judge ordered Bill to be drugged against his will, writing, “Even if the medication shortens Bigley’s lifespan, the Court would authorize the administration of the medication because Bigley is not well now and he is getting worse.” My reaction, as I wrote in The Zyprexa Papers, was, “I guess judges decide who shall live and who shall die all the time, although the death penalty is not even allowed against murderers in Alaska.”
In the United States, normally, if one’s constitutional right has been violated the decision will be overturned only if it can be shown the violation “prejudiced” the person, meaning it caused the person to lose, or at least there was a good chance it did. However, the right to choose one’s own lawyer is so fundamental in U.S. law that in the criminal context, denial of that right will automatically overturn a conviction. U.S. v. Gonzalez-Lopez, 548 US 140 (2006). In other words, people have the absolute right to choose their own lawyer (if they are paying). Except . . . except if the person is found to be incompetent to choose their lawyer.
Where the guardianship system is most broken is the lawyers appointed to represent people do not advocate for their clients’ goals. Most states pretend, but California does not even. In the official California Court System’s Information for the Conservatee, it states:
The lawyer appointed by the court usually prepares and files a written report, including his or her recommendations for resolution of the matter before the court. . . . Recommendations by your court-appointed counsel are usually given great weight and consideration by the court.
It is a violation of a lawyer’s ethics to make such a recommendation. It is the lawyer’s job to try to achieve their client’s goals. Failure to do that makes the conservatorship proceeding a legal sham–a Kangaroo Court. For better or worse, the United States has an adversary legal system, where each side presents the evidence and arguments on behalf of their clients’ goals. It is the supposedly neutral judge who is charged with arriving at a just result after hearing all of the evidence and arguments presented by the lawyers for each party. I have no doubt things would have gone far better for Ms. Spears if she had had an attorney on her side, vigorously advocating for her all along.
In my book, The Zyprexa Papers, I describe how Bill Bigley’s guardian, who wanted him drugged against his will, did not want me to be his lawyer because I won maybe half the time, while his court appointed lawyers rarely won, got the court to prohibit me from representing Bill because he was supposedly incompetent to choose me. What is incompetent about choosing a lawyer who wins half the time while his appointed lawyers almost always lose? We took it to the Alaska Supreme Court which ruled if the trial court found Bill incompetent he couldn’t choose me to be his lawyer. The trial court did and that was the end of Bill.
Finally, a few words about the secrecy surrounding guardianship proceedings. The idea is to avoid embarrassing the person accused of being incompetent, but what it really does is prevent the public from knowing what is going on. Court proceedings being open to the public is a core value of the United States’ legal system, but it has greatly eroded with an astounding number and type of cases being held in secret. There is always some rationale for why it should be secret, but it results in no accountability. Ms. Spears has recently been allowed to choose her own lawyer and there is no doubt in my mind it would not have happened without the public scrutiny and uproar over her being denied that right.
About half of The Zyprexa Papers concerns Eli Lilly using the court to keep documents secret proving it knew from the beginning that Zyprexa caused diabetes and other metabolic problems, including massive weight gain in a large percentage of the people taking it. This secrecy killed tens of thousands of people.
In the guardianship situation, the fact of a guardianship being granted has to be public because that is the only way people can know the guardian has taken over the decision-making authority of the person. It is the secret psychiatric reports, etc., that do people in. In my view, the person against whom a conservatorship or guardianship is sought or has been granted should have the right to make everything public. But, of course, the system will say the person is not competent to make the decision. Catch-22.
We have filed this post about Britney along with other Medical Kidnap posts. As many readers of RxISK know you don’t have to have your rights removed with a formal piece of paper to end up in the trap Britney has been in – the medical system can be staggeringly hostile and violent if you don’t behave as you are told.
Medical Kidnap: Get out of Jail Free
The History of Medical Kidnapping
Medical Kidnap: The Dilemmas of Therapeutic Optimism
Some reviews of The Zyprexa Papers feature below:
The Zyprexa Papers Outing Drug company corruption
The Zyprexa Papers: A Legal system for Drug Companies not Patients
The Zyprexa Papers Coercion, Zyprexa and Psychiatry
The Bestselling Zyprexa Papers
This article by Alaska attorney Jim Gottstein is among the most eloquent denunciations of America’s failure to live up to its promise of liberty that I have ever read.
What happened to Britney Spears is becoming all to common in today’s world Earth globe americans I was a victim to medical kidnapping myself not even nearly the amount of time but nevertheless some disturbing similarities to Britney’s nightmare. When I was kidnapped the first doctor named Tucker stated he was going to release me at once and I be free the next day unfortunately he was removed and another doctor who was in with the police authorities and the pharmacy drug industry and hospital medical kidnapping funding program was my new doctor name is Thomas J Grayden who tortured me and wrote false and untrue reports about me. I was framed and had lies put out there by media television and newspapers that had me locked up and tortured and lies are still all over about me. Here’s s a short summary: I was on top of the world and this story really happened to me hope by putting this awful true nightmare event out there it might make more aware of these disgusting horrible actions happening to others and what happened to myself. Here’s what happen to me in Huntington Beach California USA : I ran a very well known event service used on television and films in California mostly Los Angeles and Orange County for film prop and live events and I owned a global historical collectibles and rental business. I was ripped off and taken advantage of by a conman using a fake name from another country in with Laguna Beach PD and living in California. This crook conman with the local Laguna Beach Police Lt Jim Cota and Department working with this awful hospital & a man named Dr Thomas J Grayden committed the most awful illegal crimes against me. This group of criminal persons is very dangerous & dishonest organizational group. After being ripped off and I called the Orange County Sheriff authorities who refused to take a police report of the crime committed on me and would not help me at all and stated for me to handle this matter myself. So me a disabled man who was the victim did my best to flush this crook out by way of phone from his unknown to myself hiding spot so I could get paid funds due. I never new his real name or where he lived and never touched the man nor knew what nw looked like. Days later after I’d forgotten I’d called the authorities the authorities showed up Nov. 27th 2018 and forced me against my will into mental hospital I was forced to sign documents I couldn’t read because I had no reading glasses. I wrote this on the documents I forced to sign by threat of bodily harm. These documents were later altered by hospital staff without my consent. I was totally tortured, woke up every 15 minutes at night. Gaslighting tactics were used daily on me. Staff wrote reports filled with total lies. Video surveillance was in room on me when I was there. I was physically & mentally tortured. Announcements on loudspeakers Public address loudspeaker stating code blue when staff at times overdosed victims and the we’re dying, while being chased around by psychiatric medical staff that had syringes filled with HALDOL mixed with psych med cocktails called “booty juice”and dangerous pills forced on victims that were called zombie pils this is what I was going through while my house I lived in at the time was burglarized by Laguna Beach Police raiding my home. These Police officers who aggressively used their position of power to gain personal profit and acquire property of mine against my will for there personal gain and kept everything for themselves. It’s common knowledge that this department has the reputation of being (meat eaters) in the Orange County CA. area and have gotten away with this illegal behavior for many years. They use the legal term “civil forfeiture” These same evil dishonest Laguna Beach and Orange County authorities also spread false and very disgusting untrue lies about me all over the place to harm me from the television media to local people and social media, newspapers. They planted and altered evidence in my house to make a case against me. When they kidnapped me and through me into the asylum I was physically hit by crazy persons, in the asylum and made to take showers in places that were used as a toilet Toilet and with no heated water. Dr Thomas J Grayden & hospital staff lied to my family & others about me. This was what happened for 17 miserable scary torturous days of my life until I requested a writ and a outside of hospital Orange County Court Judge let me free & saved my life. My medical insurance was fraudulently cheated in my opinion out of $72,000. A movie Movie camera called the “Unsane” talks about this private media insurance scam doctors & hospitals in the United States today use. This is a horrible awful total scam to patients that are insured. If you do not have insurance they let you right out the door very quickly. But if you have private insurance your stuck in a dangerous hellhole till the Insurance runs out or you die or you write a writ and outside court judge let’s you out & if the doctor is unable to fool your family to turn them against you in your court hearing. I came home and found many of my animals were dead or gone from this raid that was from a bogus restraining order on me and my home. Damages were many of my priceless collectibles were broken and or stolen by these crooks well over a million dollars in damages these evil wicked crooks call themselves police who ruined my life by putting me into a torture chamber asylum and doctors there indirectly tried to kill me by overdosing me with unsafe levels of drugs raising my blood pressure to dangerous levels. This dangerous unsafe torture mental hospital forced me into drugged me against my will. It’s hard for most to believe but I was burglarized by Laguna Beach Police with backing from HBPD they stole my priceless collections of valuables I’d collected from around the world they broke and vandalized my property and inside my home. I lost my house in California and had to move out of State and lost my business and over 80 of my animals I used in television and film and events who were my life, that were dead or gone when I was released from the asylum due to this totally bogus restraining order that failed in court. The restraining order that failed to hold up in court of law because it was only used to get out of paying funds owed to me. These awful dishonest people forced me to lose my home, my car and life savings and now all gone from these Laguna Beach OC CA crooks. Once you’re in one of these places you’ve lost all your rights and no one will believe you as a patient or even a ex-patient. This is one of the evils tactics Laguna Beach California law enforcement and other OC authorities are using to take advantage and rip-off of disabled & the elderly in California. They are throwing people like myself into asylum mental hospital centers like this so they are able to get a way with what ever law they have chosen to break. Laguna Beach police and many other law enforcement officers are stealing valuables, spreading untrue false rumors to harm victims reputation and be immune from themselves being prosecuted and ruin innocent peoples lives by giving them undeserved criminal convictions on records of victims. This gives them a license to steal and torture victims and better protects themselves from getting caught. Police in Laguna Beach and many other cities are now targeting disabled/elderly and capturing these innocent victims using and abusing there color of authority. I registered everything I owned legally and police still stole it. My traveling around the world and very successful life in television and movies made me a target by these corrupt police and officials who were and are vary jealous that ended up keeping what ever they wanted from me after the ridiculous cases mostly fell apart. I know live under threat of death or life in prison if I ever return to California under the current local and state government. I had to accept a deal with no prison or jail if I signed over my assets they bluntly ripped off of a bogus restraining order that didn’t hold up in court and was dropped out of court. The Good and bad news is I now live in another state in a nicer place where it is more difficult for those corrupt Laguna Beach police criminals in California have a harder time harming me, but they did unbelievable physical and psychological damages to me and my good reputation and clean record and scared and are still scaring many of my family and friends.
The last line of your post sticks in my mind. Tom Burns a psych in UK was influential in persuading politicians to approve compulsory ‘treatment’ in the community, It amounted mainly to involuntary brutally forced injections and removals from homes.. He organised a tokenistic consultation and meeting at Springfields hospital in London to convince ‘users’ of the advantages. Black men were rightfully the most fearful of the dehumanising consequences of coercion but were silenced by fear of speaking openly Aftrwards a group got together and set up safe houses to hide away and be mutually cared for. Years later T B confessed he had made an error. Too late for so many.
I would like to ask Jim G and Wayne R Is there any kind of organised group of lawyers anywhere of the calibre we need to tackle psychiatric abuse? Wayne What you published is also very impressive Are you still practicing law pro bono? I remember a programme whereby student lawyers volunteered to assist prisoners on death row. Anything like that happening in psychiatry?
The Case Against Psychiatry
Why Psychiatry is Evil and Must Be Abolished
Wayne Ramsay, J.D.
The Case Against Psychiatry began as notes I wrote after attending the annual Mood Disorders Symposium at Johns Hopkins University in 1988. During the following days, months, and years I repeatedly re-read those notes, added ideas as they occurred to me, and read many books and articles about psychiatry. In the process I attended the Mood Disorders Symposiums at Johns Hopkins in 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, and 1994, as well as other programs. Over time my notes became a large unpublished manuscript. In the 1990s I published excerpts from that manuscript as pamphlets using the pseudonym or pen name Lawrence Stevens. This book is updated and expanded versions of those pamphlets and four additional essays: The Myth of Psychiatric Diagnosis, Why the Myth of Mental Illness Lives On, Why Psychiatry is Evil, and The Future of Anti-Psychiatry Activism.
In these essays I have assembled the most credible witnesses against psychiatry I could find. I am therefore as much an editor as an author. In every case where I can remember the source of facts or an idea I have given the writer or speaker credit. This approach enabled me to write a more convincing and compelling case against psychiatry than would have been possible by simply stating my personal opinions.
In recommended reading or videos at the end of some essays I have listed books, articles, and videos, all of which I have read or watched in their entirety, on the subject of the essay, and web sites I recommend, for readers who wish to learn more.___________________________________________________
“[M]odern psychiatry has no rational or scientific basis.” – Dr. Niall (“Jock”) McLaren, an Australian psychiatrist, in his YouTube.com video, “DSM-5: Critical Review – Part 1” 2011) at 0:22
“I have sworn upon the altar of god eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.” -Thomas Jefferson, September 23, 1800
Does Mental Illness Exist?
Schizophrenia: A Nonexistent Disease
The Myth of Biological Depression
The Myth of Psychiatric Diagnosis
Why the Myth of Mental Illness Lives On
Psychiatric Drugs: Cure or Quackery? (HTML)
Psychiatric Drugs: Cure or Quackery? (PDF booklet)
Psychiatry’s Electroconvulsive Shock Treatment:
A Crime Against Humanity
The Brain Butchery Called Psychosurgery
The Case Against Psychotherapy
Unjustified Psychiatric Commitment in the U.S.A.
Is Involuntary Commitment for “Mental Illness” or “Dangerousness” a Violation of Substantive Due Process?
Why Psychiatry Should Be Abolished as a Medical Specialty(HTML)
Why Psychiatry Should Be Abolished as a Medical Specialty(PDF)
Suicide: A Civil Right
Psychiatric Stigma Follows You Wherever You Go
for the Rest of Your Life
Why Psychiatry is Evil
The Future of Anti-Psychiatry Activism
Permission to reproduce is granted
provided the reproduction is accurate
and proper credit is given
The author is a volunteer (pro bono) attorney for the Law Project for Psychiatric Rights (psychrights.org) and may be reached at wayneramsay (at) mail (dot) com
Law Project for Psychiatric Rights: PsychRights
Follow jimgottstein on Twitter
About the Law Project For Psychiatric Rights
The Law Project for Psychiatric Rights (PsychRights) was incorporated as an Alaska non-profit on November 6, 2002, to undertake a coordinated, strategic, legal effort seeking to end the abuses against people diagnosed with mental illness through individual legal representation. These abuses are describe in Psychiatry: Force of Law. PsychRights is especially focused on unwarranted court ordered psychiatric drugging requiring people diagnosed with mental illness to submit or be forcibly subjected to brain damaging psychiatric drugs (& electroshock). The strategic campaign is described in some detail in How the Legal System Can Help Create a Recovery Culture in Mental Health Systems, which also discusses the necessity of educating the public about the truth and creating alternatives to the all drug, all the time mental illness system. Due to the massive psychiatric drugging of children and youth, especially poor, disadvantaged children, PsychRights has made it a priority.
Board of Directors and Officers:
Jim Gottstein President & CEO
Don Roberts Vice President, Secretary and Treasurer
Dorothy Dundas Board Member
This is the problem with the system.
Once a professional(s) makes a false accusation about you or places an incorrect label on you, it has dark ramifications for that individual for the rest of their life.
You are stuck with a label that is not really you!
They have a permanent tattoo on their forehead that can never be erased. You can try to alter that tattoo however, you can never get rid of it!
Like Ms Spears, anyone can have their basic human rights stripped away from them with a ‘flick of a pen’ or a nasty vendetta.
If someone wants to ruin your life, they will do anything to blemish/defame your good name.
Someone who has it in for you can have people set you up and ruin your life with defamatory and vexatious labels.
I cannot comprehend how those who do this to many decent/honest people live with themselves?
If the tables were reversed, would they have the mental strength or moral courage to endure the psychological harm and torment that is inflicted upon these innocent victims? ~ Believe me: It is worse than torture!
Who has the right to take away anyone’s basic human rights?
Many who have been stripped of their basic civil human rights have enough insight and foresight, to see beyond the ‘smoke and mirrors’.
Those who believe are above others feel threatened that the outspoken ones might actually carry weight with what they hear/see and feel.
Exposing the tyrants for who they are may actually aggravate those who try to expose the TRUTH!
Every good you try to do = more harm!
As evidenced in Britneys case, Self righteousness shrouded by self denial is the real mental dysfunction here. Her family used self righteous excuses shrouded by their own self denial to harm her further. Britney Spears family continue to be in serious self denial about their own culpability in harming her further both emotionally and financialy and physically by misuse of damaging medications. No doubt Britney initially had some emotional issues which she may have out grew if given space but thanks to her ‘caring’ ‘loving’ family she now has a lot more. The catastrophic trauma and financial exploitation they caused her will be hers alone to bear the rest of her life. Not uncommon for dysfunctional families to continue to avoid their accountability while they focus solely on their victims flaws that they created for her.