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July 20, 1974 - Image 9

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Michigan Daily, 1974-07-20

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Sotu rdoy, July 20, 1.974

THE MICHIGAN DAILY

Poge Nine

Saturday, July 20, 1974 THE MICHIGAN DAILY Page Nine

Mental
WASHINGTON (A - A new
:ivil rights movement, work-
ing through law suits in federal
:ourts, could have a profound
impact on the nation's publicly
supported mental institutions.
If successful, ° the strategy
:ould force every state to spend
more time and money to guar-
antee individual treatment and
humane conditions for patients
in institutions for the mentally
ill and mentally retarded.
AND IT could inject the pow-
er of the federal courts into a
local government function in a
prolonged way that has happen-
ed only once before - in school
desegregation.
The movement, coalescing
from the efforts of numerous
local reformers, gained new
strength in 1972 when a hand-
ful of attorneys formed the Men-
tal Health Law Project as a
nonprofit private corporation
bent on winning legal recogni-
tion of the rights of mental pa-
tients.
About the same time, the Jus-
tice Department was gearing
up for its own attack.
Assistant Atty. Gen. Stanley
Pottinger, head of the depart-
ment's civil rights division, calls
the effort "one of the two or
three last great frontiers of civil
rights."
THE LAWSUTTS contend
states have not just a moral
and medical duty, but an obli-
gation imposed by-the Constitu-
tion, to nrovide treatment to pa-
tients involuntarily committed
to mental institutions.
This argument, like those em-
nloved successfully in the civil
rights battles of the 1960s, re-
lies on the 14th Amendment and
its nromise that no state shall
"deprive any person of life,
liberty, or nronerty, without due
process of law "
Dting the past 14 years, the
arg isent was oresentedain sev-
eral federal district courts on
behalf of individual Patients.
Bit the mixed results attract-
ed little attention and establish-
ed no clear-cut legal principle
with national application.
A SERIES of apinions in 1971
and 1972 by a judge in Alabama
gave the movement the imnetus
it had sought. Chief U.S. Dis-
trict Judge Frank Johnson sle-
clared uneonivocally that na-
tients committed to institutions
"inowestionably have a conyit-
ttional right to receive -irh
individual treatment as will giva
each of them a realistic onor-
t'nity to he cured or to improve
his or her mental condition."
He said flrther, "There catA

patients: New civil rights fight

be no legal or moral justifica-
tion for the state of Alabamao's
failing to afford treatment -
and adequate treatment from a
medical standpoint - to the
several thousand patients w h o
have been civillly committed to
Bryce Hospital for treatment
purposes.
"To deprive any ci'izen oft
his or her liberty upon the al-
truistic theory that the coifine-
ment is for humane therapeitic
reasons and then fail to provide
adequate treatment viola.-es the
very fundamentals of due pro-
cess."
NOT ONLY (lid the ia nc con-
demn the state's attitude, bet
he also ordered state officials
to submit nlans for imaroving
Bryce Hosnitri, Searcy Hospital
and Partlow State Sciool and
Hosnital and he retained jiris-
diction over the case t anake
sere that the imorovemnnts
were put into effect.
By doing so, Johnson fallowed
the pattern of federal cGuits
which have supervised the ion-
plemeotation of school desegre-
gation plans with a forc '-over-
whelming the opposition in state
legislatures and local govern-
ments.
Alabama appealed Johnson's
decision to the U.S. Court of
Anneals in New Orleans, which
heard the case more than ) year
ago but has yet to issue a ruling.
IN ANOTHER case, r-ising
the same issue in a much more
limited way, the appellate court
ruled two months ago that pa-
tients in state mental institu-
tions have a clear constiiution-
al right to treatment.
It was the first time in his-
tory that the question na-d been
decided by a federal aipeals
court, which carries consider-
ably more weight than the dis-
trict courts.
Justice Denartment lawyers
say they were encouraged by
the decision, written by Judge
John Wisdom for the three-judge
annellate nanel which neard and
rejected Florida's appeal of a
district court decision awarding
$38,500 in damages to a pa-
tient virtually ignored by the
doctors during 15 years of con-
finement in a mental hospital.
BUT THE lawyers are cau-
tious in their hope for an ap-
neals court oninion upholding
Judge Johnson's much broader
order. For one thing, the Flor-
ida case involved a single pa-
tient rather than a sweeping
command to alter a state svs-
tem.
And the Alabama case will be
decided by a different set of

judges. Under normal court pro-
cedure, three of the nine appel-
late judges serving a specific
geographic region decide each
case for the court Judge Wis-
dom was assigned. to both the
Alabama and Florida cases. But
his two colleagues on the Ala-
bama case were not on the Flor-
ida case and may take a dif-
ferent view,
In addition, the Alabama case
will be decided in conjunction
with a Georgia case in which
the district judge ruled that pa-
tients have no constitutional
right to treatment and suggest-
ed that the issue was not a
matter for the courts to decde.
THAT IS the only major case
in which a judge hasa reseCed
the claimed right to treatment
on constitutional grounds.
At any rate, the issue seems
certain to reach the Supreme
Court in a few years. The ulti-
mate result will affect more
than 30,000 patients in state
and county institutions for the
mentally ill and about 200,000 in
institutions for the retarded.
Perhaps no section of Amer-
ican society has prOduced more
horror stories than these insti-
tutions. The opinion written by
Judge Wisdom in the case of
Kenneth Donaldson offers a
glimpse.
Donaldson was committed to
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a Florida State Hospital in 1957
after a brief hearing. Donald-
son's father petitioned for the
commitment in a county court
proceeding similar to those of
most other states.
ACCORDING TO testimony,
the judge told Donaldson ne was
being sent away for only a few
weeks. He was diagnosed as a
"paranoid schizophrenic" A
Christian Scientist, he refused
medication and electroshock
treatments and "no other ther-
apy was offered," Wisdom
wrote.
"Donaldson was usually con-
fined in a locked room where,
according to his testimony, there
were about 60 beds, with little
more room between beds than
was necessary for a chair; his
possessions were kept under the
bed," Wisdom related.
"At night, he was often wak-
ened by some who had fits and

by some 'soho would torment
other patients, screaming n d
hollering.' Then there was ')e
fear, always the fear you have
in your heart, I suppose, when
you go to sleep that nasybe
somebody would jump on y sa
during the night.' A third of t.e
patients in the ward were :rim-
inals," the judge contin-ed,
quoting from Donaldson's teSi-
mony.
"IN SHORT," Wisdom con-
cluded, "he received only the
kind of subsistence level cus-
todial care he would have re-
ceived in a prison, and perhips
less psychiatric treatment than
a criminally committed inmate
would have received."
The Justice Department, in a
lawsuit accusing Maryland of
violating the rights of 2,400 pa-
tients at Rosewood State flos-
pital for the retarded, alleges
similar treatment.

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Church enice4

FIRST CHURCH OF CHRIST,
SCIENTIST
1833 Washtenaw
Sunday Service and Sunday
School-10:30 a.m,
Wednesday Testimony Meet-
ing-8:00 p.m.
Child Care-Sunday, under 2
years; Wednesday, through 6
years.
Reading Room -306 E. Lib-
erty. 10-9 Mon., 10-5 Tues.-Sat.
"The Truth That Heals" -
WPAG radio, 10 a.m. Sunday.,
CANTERBURY HOUSE
218 N. Division--66S-0606
Holy Eucharist at noon at
Canterbury House.
ST. ANDREW'S EPSICOPAL
CHURCH, 306 N. Division
10:00 a.m. - Morning Prayer
and Sermon.
7:00 p.m. - Holy Eucharist in
chapel.
FIRST PRESBYTERfAN
CHURCH, 1432 Washtenaw Ave.
Ministers: Robert E. Sanders,
John R. Waser, Brewster IL
Gere, Jr.
"Where Christ, Campus and
Community meet"
9:30 am. - Worship Service.

BETHLEHEM UNITED
CHURCH OF CHRIST
423 S. Fourth Ave. Ph. 665-6149
Minister: Howard F. Gebhart
10 a.m.-Worship Service and
Church School.
UNIVERSITY LUTHERAN
CHAPEL (LCMS)
1511 Washtenaw Ave.
Alfred T. Scheips, Pastor
Sunday Service at 9:15 a m.
CAMPUS CHAPEL
1136Washtenaw Court
(1 Block S. of C.C. Little Bldg.)
The Rev. Donald Postema
Morning Service-10:00 a.m.-
"God's.Quarrel With People."
Evening Service-6:00 p.m.-
Holy Communion.
UNIVERSITY REFORMED
CHURCH, 1001 E. Huron
Calvin Malefyt, Alan Rice,
Ministers
10:00 a.m.-Morning Worship.
LORD OF LIGHT LUTHERAN
CIURCH (ALC-LCA)
(Formerly Lutheran Student
Chapel)
801 S. Forest Ave. at H1 St.
Donald G; Zll, pastor
Sunday Service at 10:30 a.m.

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