I’m glad to see you cover the Vermont Supreme Court ruling in favor of the patient who was forcibly drugged at the Brattleboro Retreat ("High court overturns involuntary medication order," Nov. 15). This is a story about our legal rights to determine our own medical care — an important victory.
However, I’d like to see more responsible reporting about psychiatric patients. By repeating the narrative of state officials without attribution (“After the patient stopped taking the drug, his schizophrenic symptoms got worse”), your reporter shows a bias toward the party that the court found to be at fault.
The patient’s diagnosis, age at which he was diagnosed, and number of hospitalizations are parts of his medical history that are irrelevant to the story. Missing from the story is any statement from the Mental Health Law Project, which represented him, or any mention of Disability Rights Vermont, the protection and advocacy organization that guides Vermonters in the execution of psychiatric advance directives.
All of this leads your readers to miss the significance of the case, which is the assurance that Vermonters’ advance directives have any worth — that we do not carefully plan for our future medical treatment in vain. That merely disagreeing with our doctors is not evidence we lack legal decision-making capacity.
Those of us with psychiatric labels are statistically no more violent than the general population and 10-20 times more likely (depending on the study) to be victims of violence. When we do strike out, it is typically in self-defense, a result of confinement, restraint and threat — none of which ever makes it into our medical records or police reports.
Please become educated about the discrimination we face as survivors of psychiatric harm, and interview survivors and advocates when the story warrants it. It might take a bit more effort, but I think your readers deserve it.