Victory For Ray and a Call to Action

August 7, 2009 at 11:00 am

Ray Sandford

Ray Alert #1: If it’s Wednesday, then Ray Sandford is Getting Escorted from His Home for Another Forced Electroshock

The past Wednesday morning after the historic USA election what were you doing? 

I know what Ray Sandford, 54, was doing.

Each and every Wednesday, early in the morning, staff shows up at Ray’s sheltered living home called Victory House in Columbia Heights, Minnesota, adjacent to Minneapolis.

Staff escorts Ray the 15 miles to Mercy Hospital.

There, Ray is given another of his weekly electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) treatments, also known as electroshock. All against his will. On an outpatient basis.

   So began the letter, a Human Rights Alert from MindFreedom International (MFI), that told the story of Ray Sandford, a nonviolent and noncriminal man, for what it’s worth. Ray has received more than 40 ECT “treatments” to date–all by force and over Ray’s expressed protest, all with the support of the government, the written law, the hospital, Lutheran Social Services and and their court appointed legal guardian.

   In an effort to find help in fighting the ECT, Ray went to the library looking for options. He discovered MFI and contacted director David Oaks who immediately put into action the campaign for Ray’s rights. Ray turned to MFI whenever he had news which ranged from the, by now, not surprising but ugly — to the downright bizarre. It’s been a long year for Ray with many strange twists. I encourage you to catch up and follow up on the story here, at Ray’s chosen outlet.

A Light at the End of the Tunnel: Several weeks ago, due to public pressure and subsequent concerns from his insurance company – Ray’s psychiatrist, Dean K. Knudson, announced that he may be removing himself from Ray’s case. He appears to have followed through on that and now, only yesterday MFI reported that it was official–Ray has a new doctor and in many ways there is reason to celebrate victory for Ray.

Today, Ray said because of his campaign his new psychiatrist — who opposes forced electroshock — has been officially approved by the mental health system.

Ray already has a new attorney, who is moving toward changing Ray’s guardianship.

Meanwhile, because of the campaign the Minnesota state legislature has scheduled a hearing this Monday, 10 August, on the subject of electroshock of committed Minnesota residents.

   That looks a lot like victory on some fronts and a clear path to victory on others. It seems entirely likely that Ray has had his last forced shock. First, we must commend Ray for standing up in a system that punishes that sort of behavior. The coercive mental health system, especially in regard to shock, sees standing up as not knowing what’s good for you and compliance as insight. One of the first signs to its proponents that ECT has been “effective” is that the recipient stops resisting it. It took a lot of courage to fight as Ray has and even more to sustain that fight. Also, a very large and very vocal grassroots campaign was mobilized effectively, proving that true activism can work. Kudos to everyone who had a hand in restoring Rays rights. A mass of people fighting like hell can accomplish something and improving one other life is more than a lot of us choose to do with ours.

 Call to Action:  As encouraging as this news is, it is news of one man. The system that allowed this to happen still exists and is growing unless people wake up to it and take action. The very laws that created Ray’s situation, called “assisted outpatient treatment” when what they mean is “forced outpatient treatment,” are coming your way if they haven’t already.  I know it’s been proposed in PA and will be taking every possible action against it and as I find out more and more what actions there are to be taken, I will pass them on here in hopes that more will do the same.

   If “public pressure” can help one person in one city’s damaged and damaging mental health system, then to change it on a larger scale, we need a larger public and far more pressure. This won’t turn around until we care as much about human rights as we do about Reality tv and government money for rusty Buicks.

   In the time it might take to sit through a commercial break or two, you can fire off some emails or phone calls to relevant people. I and many others have called and emailed the governor of MN, Mercy Hospital, Lutheran Social Services and the ELCA (the Lutheran church). Lutheran Social Services responded with the pitiful defense that they themselves don’t actually strap people down and administer the shock. No one else replied but action was realized. So many people did so much more than that for Ray but everybody can do something.


FAQ about Ray Sandford

Information on ECT (PDF)


Entry filed under: Action, People. Tags: , , , , , , .

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