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Have you or a loved one been 
mistreated in a
psychiatric ward?
 
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Join fellow patients who are working together now to seek justice.

 

About us 

We are not lawyers or doctors; we are only people who have been deliberately and horribly wronged by hospital staff who we were supposed to be able to trust. Several of us have cases already in the court system, and others are just filing a case.  The FAQ page describes a few of our cases, and the slideshow gives even more information.  Contact us for more information.  You can also find us on Facebook and on Twitter.

Although we can't give you formal legal advice, and we can make no promises that you will receive compensation, we will do our best to help you based on what we have learned in researching our own cases. We will charge you nothing to do that.

Our goal is to assemble as many plaintiffs as possible so that we can engage the best lawyers and approach the courts as a team effort. You have nothing to lose, except the fear, pain, and anger you have felt since they abused you. 

 

The case the started it all

Lauren Andersen started SaneRights, with her own case that is currently in New York State Supreme court.  It involves human rights in mental healthcare, particularly the right not to be detained indefinitely without a hearing, and not to be tortured.  

Lauren realized in the course of doing research for her case that the type of abuse she endured has happened to many other patients.  Their stories may differ, but certain fundamentals are repeated from case to case: inappropriate involuntary commitment of non-dangerous people, forced drugging, sometimes assault or sexual assault by staff, other types of deliberate cruelty, use of unlicensed and/or unsupervised doctors who are poorly trained, inappropriate documentation of sensitive information in the patient's clinical records, and deliberate indifference by law enforcement. 

 

The events leading up to the case:

Lauren says: "I am a mother of two, with no history of violence, who was detained without probable cause, notice, warrant, charges, legal advice, hearing, requisite paperwork, or time limit on the detention, for 18 days in a psychiatric ward at Zucker Hillside Hospital, part of North Shore Long Island Jewish (LIJ) hospital in New York City, from June 12th to 30th, 2011, during which time I was drugged, subjected to various types of severe physical and psychological abuse (including assault, hands-on stripping, forced drugging, and deprivation of human essentials like food, water and fresh air – some of which even the CIA has been criticized by Congress for using), and mistreated by staff who were unlicensed by the State to practice their profession. There was no signature or approval in the hospitalization process, issued by any individual, committee, or court, authorized to adjudicate in any way.  I have documentary evidence of all of this.  UnitedHealthcare refused to cancel my policy, which I asked it to do because I wanted to be discharged.

I was handcuffed, and my car and nearly all of my belongings were confiscated, including my Macbook, iPad, iPhone, contact lenses, medications, clothing, jewelry, keys, and money.  I was denied contact with my children, including my youngest, who was only age seven at the time. There was no signature or approval in the hospitalization process, issued by any individual, committee, or court, authorized to adjudicate in any way, administrative or judicial. I was not allowed to leave until, in desperation, more than two weeks later, I contacted my Congressman and the media.

Neither LIJ nor UnitedHealthcare informed me in advance of LIJ’s usurious fees of over $3700 per day, gave me the opportunity to approve the fees, or told me how much the insurance would cover and how much it wouldn’t – until long after I was discharged. These fees would pay health insurance premiums, for two entire families, for a year, in New York State. They are more than twice the day rate for a suite at a five-star hotel. United did not question these rates, and paid them in full.

I discovered when I received my medical records three months later that hospital staff had recorded intimate, highly personal details of my life in their permanent clinical notes, which they had collected while interrogating me over the 18 days.  They entered this information into the hospital’s IT system, to which thousands of its employees have access without my or my family’s knowledge or consent.  To date the defendants have refused to seal the records.  Astonishingly, the hospital system permits itself to package and sell clinical records for profit without the patient’s consent, too.  And it imperiously permits itself to monitor patients’ conversations and correspondence while they are in the hospital too, without notice.

LIJ (recently rebranded “Northwell Health”) is the largest integrated health system in New York State, and the 14th largest healthcare system in the United States. With more than 60,000 employees, Northwell is the largest private employer in New York State.  It is registered as a “charity”, with approximately $10B annual revenue, and has won dozens of awards for quality of care.  This is not the sort of behavior that you would expect from such a revered institution.

 

Although it refuses to openly admit guilt, the hospital has confirmed in writing that it did in fact change its policies and procedures as a result of my complaint.  

No, I have no history of drug abuse, I had not taken any alcohol, and I wasn't carrying any weapons or contraband, or disturbing the peace. Maybe I would have fared better if I were a physically fit, battle-hardened, twenty-something soldier, but I am a petite, middle aged, disabled mother of two who was treated like a terrorist.

 

The Lawsuit

I filed a civil case in 2012 in U.S. district court, Andersen v. North Shore Long Island Jewish Health System (NSLIJ), et. al.. I refer to it as “Andersen v. HILLSIDE”, in honor of that problematic lump of soil in Washington. It was dismissed at the appellate level by an all-male panel of judges loaded with conflicts of interest.  In disgust, I decided not to file a petition to SCOTUS.

My NY State supreme court case (index no. 602687/2015, Nassau County) is still alive.  As of Sept. 2016, we are now in the discovery phase of my litigation, and Northwell has already defaulted three times on the court-ordered discovery demands.  This means that I have been trying for over five years to obtain evidence from the hospital system, to no avail, and it has gone so far as to violate a court order to provide basic documentation that I should have been able to get within a few weeks. 

I finally received a letter recently (Sept. '16) from Nassau County, which is where Northwell is headquartered, and where I live.  It has part of the evidence that I’ve been seeking for years — that UnitedHealthcare and Northwell both perjured themselves. 

UnitedHealthcare said in court papers that it was necessary for me to leave the hospital and go to the Nassau County Social Services office, in order to cancel my insurance policy and be released from the hospital — while knowing full well that I was locked in, so that I couldn't possibly do that.  Northwell agreed with United’s statement.

However, the County said that isn’t true. It has no such requirements.

You’d think this would be a no-brainer, since it’s absurd to have a requirement that a patient must leave a locked ward in order to be able to get out.  I would have to be Harry Houdini to accomplish that.  But it took me five years to arrive at this point, due to the lies and deliberate indifference I have faced from so many people in Washington, Albany, New York City, and Nassau County.

 

 

Developments

Astonishingly, I discovered nearly two years later that the psychiatrist who committed me, unsupervised, was not even licensed to practice medicine in New York State at the time. According to official State records, this shrink wasn't licensed until April 1st, 2013. One might surmise from the date that it was a hoax, but if so, it is the least amusing April Fool's Day prank I have ever seen. In fact, no fewer than four of the doctors who victimized me were unlicensed at the time. 

 

This is the medical profession’s equivalent of a junior driver having an auto accident without an adult in the car, while only holding a learner's permit. Obviously the police would check the status of the driver's license if such a thing happened on the road, and caused injury to a third party. Wouldn’t they at least issue a ticket to the driver? And what if the parents of the junior driver had even given him the car keys, and told him he could drive unsupervised? Surely the police officers would criticize the parents of the driver, wouldn’t they?

 

But the management at the New York State Department of Health apparently failed to notice this in their review of my case. The State has taken no discernible disciplinary action against any of the HILLSIDE staff who abused me. Interestingly, the State seems to have misplaced all of its records pertaining to the investigation of my case, since it replied to my requests under FOIL (the Freedom of Information Law) with an empty file. 

 

Isn't it peculiar that neither the New York Police Department (NYPD), nor seven of the New York City area District Attorneys, has considered this important enough to investigate (or at least to admit that they have done so)? Could it be because they might then have to investigate innumerable other unlawful involuntary commitment cases that they turned away in the past? The NYPD claimed to have looked into it, but now -- mysteriously -- can’t seem to find any record of that inquiry, according to their reply to my FOIL request. The District Attorneys don’t have a problem with that, apparently. 

 

The Politics of the Case

In addition to the NYPD and NY State Department of Health’s deliberate indifference toward my case, FBI New York would not admit to having done any investigation, or even more than acknowledge my complaint. It has openly criticized illegal sales of prescription drugs in New York, so how could it fail to investigate unlicensed doctors who are illegally locking up nonviolent people, forcibly medicating them, and even prescribing unwanted and unnecessary narcotics for them? How are illegal sales of prescription drugs on the street any different from the same practice in a hospital?

 

My fellow former patients allege they have had similar experiences at New York City area hospitals, involving unlicensed staff, improper involuntary commitment, involuntary medication, physical/sexual abuse and excessive fees charged to Medicare and Medicaid. I can’t personally vouch for the veracity of all of these claims, but I have seen some of the documentary evidence, which is compelling. In every case I have seen, psychiatrists have inappropriate documented private, sensitive information about the patient, in the clinical records, which never should have been put into writing. 

 

If you compare this pattern of unlawful activity with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s checklist of human trafficking indicators, you will find that it meets most of the criteria for human trafficking. I wrote to ICE a but only received a cursory response.

 

The potential for abuse of what you might call this “psych ward racket”, by an authoritarian government, to control and intimidate individuals who disagree with it, are virtually limitless. Sadly, we seem to have already arrived at that point in America. It is reminiscent of Orwell’s “1984”. 

 

We fellow patients must put pressure on our politicians to do the right thing, by demonstrating their hypocrisy of trumpeting this country’s commitment to human rights, when behind the scenes they condone torture on our own shores. 

For-profit psychiatric detention is the biggest scam since slavery. And it is being perpetrated on thousands of the country’s most vulnerable people.

 

I still have some hope that the justice system will do the right thing, which the other branches of government have failed to do.  However, five years after my hospitalization (as of Sept 2016), I still have been unable to find any administrative, judicial, or other public forum, in which to discuss this openly.  That is outrageous!  How is that possible, in America or any developed country, in the 21st century??

THERE ARE NO HUMAN RIGHTS WITHOUT JUSTICE."

Contact us at 844-4-DECENCY