Posts tagged ‘Ray Sandford’

New Year’s Revolution

I’ve never really gotten into the idea of New Year’s Day as a holiday. Sure, it’s as good a time as any to reflect on the recent past and look forward but so are days, weeks, months and seasons. For the overwhelming majority, all of these pass without even minor consideration. I’m not opposed. I just don’t get the idea or get into the idea the way a lot of people do. It seems a little arbitrary to pick a unit of measurement and mark it as an occasion. That said, I’m usually up past 12 on any given night and if I’m anywhere near a glass of scotch while somebody’s celebrating something — I’m happy to raise a glass.

It stands to reason that I don’t really make New Year’s resolutions. They, like most human conventions, are made to be broken and tend to mean little even when successful. Let’s face it — there are better ways to spend an entire year than trying to lose 10 vanity pounds and most resolutions are just a holiday approved way of saying, “…but this time I really mean it,”  about things people were already trying to do all along. Managing money better, fighting with the family less, finishing a forgotten project — what happens to make us drop the ball by the end of the month? We probably stop because it stops being important. I just don’t think the one year marker is the most tangible or realistic motivator toward moving forward. I think of more real and organic moments on which I might hang a marker and commit to change — the kind of subtler moments that pass without fanfare, the kind toward which there isn’t a countdown.

One such moment was on the morning of Christmas Eve last year. I got an email about Ray Sandford’s battle to stop his own forced electroshock (ECT). The day before, he lost at the hearing he had fought so hard for — a hearing which should have restored his rights. It didn’t. Ray had hoped the coming holiday would delay his forced shock for the week. It didn’t. His shock was to be carried out on schedule, December 24th. Knowing his memory and sense would be so rocked by the ECT that he wouldn’t be able to share the holiday with family, he had tacos with his aunt the night of the hearing to celebrate Christmas.

I read that email just before heading out to get some food to take to various family events. I had two or three houses to go to that day and somewhere in Minnesota, Ray was perhaps already being escorted from his home for an electrically induced seizure — knowing his Christmas festivities consisted of tacos and a hearing that turned out to be a charade. In one moment, while driving alone, I committed myself to doing whatever I could from that day forward to help bring Ray’s forced “treatments” to an end.

It took almost a year, but Ray won his fight. He and everyone who took action in support of him have  reason to celebrate. I was only one small voice in the crowd but as it turns out, it was public pressure that caused the psychiatrist who ordered the forced ECT to remove himself from the case. Ray got a new doctor opposed to forced shock and a new guardian. It worked because Ray spoke up and kept speaking up and because other people joined in — calling and emailing the appropriate agencies, informing the media, protesting, letting the local politicians know where they stand. It worked because people committed to action and stuck with it.

It doesn’t matter what number is attached to the year but maybe it does make sense to break time up into manageable chunks. Maybe we can take a little time and consider how much change we can achieve in the course of a year. Use a reasonable amount of time and consider real and achievable action. Look into current and proposed assisted (forced) outpatient treatment laws in your state. Find individual instances in which someone needs a voice or a number of voices behind them and offer yours. Look for an instance in which complacency on our part separates someone else from their basic human rights. These problems are not in short supply. Speak up, create something, destroy something, do something that matters this year, this month, this week, even today.

Submit a comment to the FDA (here or here) insisting that ECT be tested for safety and efficacy in the one week remaining. Sometimes there is a countdown.


December 31, 2009 at 7:52 pm

Victory For Ray and a Call to Action

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)

August 7, 2009 at 11:00 am


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