Frequently Asked Questions
How do I know whether you can help me with my case, and what will you do with my information?
The information you give us about your case will be treated as confidential. It will be released if and when you decide to do so, and only on a need-to-know basis. If you decide to participate in an eventual class action suit, it is possible to do so anonymously.
Whether or not you will be able to participate has nothing to do with your level of education, income, race, age, gender or any other personal characteristic. It has only to do with what happened to you at the hospital, and what your medical records say. We can explain more about this when we speak with you directly. Don’t worry if you have a prior psychiatric care history, because the only thing that is relevant is what happened to you during the hospitalization.
If you were not hospitalized (i.e. you were not treated as an inpatient), then we apologize that we cannot help you at this time. Stay in touch, because we may be able to help you in future. For the time being, we are focusing on patients who were involuntarily detained, and suffered genuine harm because of that.
If your medical records say that you were dangerous or violent at any time while you were in the hospital, or just prior to being admitted, you will probably have an uphill battle with your lawsuit unless you have strong evidence that you were not.
What laws protect me?
State laws such as New York's and the US Constitution protect you against the types of abuse you may have experienced. You were probably not told this when you were a patient. They didn’t want you to know.
Whatever your illness, gender, race, age, sexual orientation, income or religion, you are entitled to the same rights as every other American. There are 75 million people in the US who suffer from mental disorders, such as depression, dementia, PTSD, autism, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and anorexia/bulimia.
The most commonly violated laws by mental hospitals, in our experience, are the "emergency detention" provisions of the State Mental Hygiene Laws, which -- in most states -- say that a hospital can only lock up an individual who is imminently, physically dangerous to himself or others (i.e. suicidal or homicidal). Some States have laws that do not protect patients' rights as well as others, and you can find a pretty comprehensive list on this site. Most of us have been locked up for nothing more than behaving in a way that others considered to be a bit odd. This is also a violation of the U.S. Constitution's due process provisions. There are also State Patient's Bills of Rights that the hospital industry widely ignores.
Mental hospitals also widely practice forced drugging, which for non-dangerous patients violates the State Mental Hygiene Laws as well as the U.S. Constitution's due process provisions.
What do I need to do?
In order to proceed beyond our initial conversation with you on the phone, you will need your medical records if you don’t already have them, which you can obtain from the hospital with a written request. Each hospital usually has its own medical records request form, and sometimes your signature must be notarized. By law the hospital must provide your records within ten days. If you have any other evidence, such as a police report, save it, because it may be helpful also. You don’t have to share your most intimate details with us initially, only the relevant parts of your file. If you share this information with us, we guarantee that we will keep it confidential until you agree to release it.
Why are you doing this?
We hope that we may be able to help you, while we help ourselves too, because there is power in numbers. For us, this is not just about monetary compensation. We want to use this case to force changes in legislation, to protect patients like you and us from future abuse. We need more victims to help us speak out as loudly as possible. Don’t forget, no matter how ill you are, you are entitled to human rights too!
Why can’t I find a lawyer?
We can’t comment on your specific case, but several phenomena have become apparent to us, in sharing our own experiences and speaking with other potential plaintiffs: (1) the State systematically neglects to enforce the Mental Hygiene Laws, through deliberate indifference to complaints, (2) law enforcement methodically treats psychiatric patients like second-class citizens, and (3) the legal profession habitually rejects psychiatric patients as potential clients, and the bar associations do nothing to discourage this, also through deliberate indifference to plaintiffs’ complaints. We aim to upset that apple cart full of bad apples, and expose it for the unconstitutional sham that it is.
What kind of funding do you have, and how are you structured?
SaneRights Inc. is a Delaware-based nonprofit corporation. To date it has been funded exclusively by Lauren Andersen, who believes so strongly in the necessity of changes to our mental healthcare laws that she is investing her own personal funds to win these cases, and thereby help you get compensation too. We will shortly be able to accept financial donations online, so please watch this space!
Do you have contact information for people to whom I should send my complaint about mistreatment?
Here are a few names you can try in New York; the list is not exhaustive. We can't provide contact information for every state at this stage because we just don't have the resources yet, but we will try to keep this list up to date to the best of our abilities (last updated 9/8/16). We don't have email addresses for all of these parties because they don't all provide emails. See also the "Wall of Shame": a list of US parties who have shown deliberate indifference to SaneRights' complaints.
Ann Marie T. Sullivan, MD
New York State Office of Mental Health
44 Holland Avenue
Albany, New York 12229
Howard A. Zucker, MD JD
New York State Department of Health
433 River Street, Suite 303
Troy, NY 12180-2299
William J. Bratton
New York, NY 10007
Nassau County District Attorney
262 Old Country Road
Mineola, NY 11501
Thomas J. Spota
Suffolk County District Attorney
North County Complex - Building 77
Veterans Memorial Highway, Hauppauge, NY 11788
Michael E. McMahon
Richmond County District Attorney
130 Stuyvesant Place, 7th Floor
Staten Island, NY 10301
Cyrus R. Vance, Jr.
New York County District Attorney
One Hogan Place
New York, NY 10013
Ms. Darcel Denise Clark
Bronx County District Attorney
198 East 161st Street
Bronx, NY 10451
Mr. Richard A. Brown
Queens County District Attorney
125-01 Queens Blvd, #7
Kew Gardens, NY 11415
Mr. Kenneth P. Thompson
Kings County District Attorney
350 Jay St.
Brooklyn, New York 11201-2908
Contact us at 844-4-DECENCY.