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mistreated in a
psychiatric ward?

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Legal Framework

The following is a list of the laws most commonly violated in our cases; some of these are based on NY but similar laws exist in other states.  Most former patients are surprised when they discover how many different laws exist to protect their rights.

• State mental hygiene laws: “emergency detention” provisions – in most states, a hospital can only legally commit dangerous or violent individuals, not garden-variety eccentric people.
- false imprisonment 
- Battery and sexual assault
- IIED (intentional infliction of emotional distress)
- Negligence
- Defamation
Constitutional law violations - There are three elements required to bring an action for violations of Constitutional rights, under 42 U.S.C. §1983 and §1985.  The plaintiff must prove the following: (1) He or she was deprived of a specific right, privilege, or immunity secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States; (2) The alleged deprivation was committed under color of state law; and (3) The deprivation was the proximate cause of injuries suffered by the plaintiff.  Typical rights guaranteed under the Constitutional amendments that are violated by mental healthcare facilities include the following:
- 1st amendment – freedom of speech & religion
- 2nd amendment – right to bear arms
- 4th amendment – privacy
- 8th amendment – cruel & unusual punishment
- 13th amendment – involuntary servitude
- 14th amendment – due process  
• Medical malpracticeThe elements of a medical malpractice claim include: (1) a legal duty to use due care (because the reprehensible acts are committed by employees of the Hospital), (2) a breach of that duty (as in the duty of a physician/nurse/carer to patient), (3) a reasonably close causal connection between that breach and the Plaintiff’s resulting injury, and (4) actual loss or damage to the Plaintiff.
• The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) established that mental disabilities are legally equivalent to physical ones.  Title III of the ADA Act states: “No individual shall be discriminated against on the basis of disability in the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of any place of public accommodation by any person who owns, leases (or leases to), or operates a place of public accommodation.”  To state a valid claim under title III of the ADA, a plaintiff must allege (1) that she is disabled within the meaning of the ADA; (2) that Defendants own, lease, or operate a place of public accommodation; and (3) that Defendants discriminated against her by denying her a full and equal opportunity to enjoy the services the Defendants provide. 
Anti-Discrimination laws - by race, age, religion, gender, income, and sexual orientation. Treating people with mental disorders as if they were second-class citizens is doubly discriminatory, because women, seniors, and LGBT people are more likely to suffer from psychiatric conditions than others.  
GINA (Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act)protects people with genetic illnesses from discriminatory treatment. There is increasing evidence that psychiatric illnesses like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and some forms of dementia are genetic in nature.  This indicates that the tendency to blame a psychiatric patient for his own condition is based on faulty assumptions, and that the real culpability for his behavior is in his own DNA.  The findings showing a genetic basis to psychiatric disorders must put an end to the blame culture around mental illness.  It is no different to discriminate against someone with a gene for a psychiatric illness than it is to discriminate against an individual with a gene that causes his dark skin, or his homosexuality, or a hereditary form of cancer. 
Law of contracts - This is an as yet untested legal theory, as far as we are aware: as an involuntarily committed patient, you provide the “service” of residing in the hospital, to enable the latter to charge your insurance company a day rate for detaining you there.  Since you were unwilling to enter into the contract for your care, but were coerced into doing so anyway, the hospital must be deemed to have exercised undue influence over you, requiring you to enter into the forced labor contract under duress.  If you can prove that you were non-dangerous when committed, the contract is automatically an illegal agreement, because the purpose of the contract was to achieve an illegal end.   
• General Business Statutes (deceptive trade practices)
Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, 18 U.S.C. § 1961 et seq. - provides for extended criminal penalties and a civil cause of action for acts performed as part of an ongoing criminal organization. The RICO Act focuses specifically on racketeering, and it allows the leaders of a syndicate to be tried for the crimes which they ordered others to do or assisted them.  While its original use in the 1970s was to prosecute the Mafia and others who were actively engaged in organized crime, its later application has been more widespread.
 Human trafficking - The United Nations defines human trafficking as the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring, or receipt of persons by improper means (such as force, abduction, fraud, or coercion) for an improper purpose including forced labor or sexual exploitation.  The definition on trafficking consists of three elements: (1) The action of trafficking which means the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons; (2) The means of trafficking which includes threat of or use of force, deception, coercion, abuse of power or position of vulnerability; (3) The purpose of trafficking which is always exploitation. There is no private cause of action for human trafficking in the US.
Mail and wire fraud - There are three elements to mail and wire fraud: intent; a "scheme or artifice to defraud" or the obtaining of property by fraud; and, a mail or wire communication.  The use of interstate wirings is a necessary element, however most email transmissions cross state lines even though the sender and recipient may be located in the same state.  
False Claims Act violated not only by a person who makes a false statement or a false record to get the government to pay a claim, but also by one who engages in a course of conduct that causes the government to pay a false or fraudulent claim for money.  The elements to satisfy false claims are: (1) having actual knowledge of the information; and (2) acting in deliberate ignorance of the truth or falsity of the information.  
• Money launderingcharging fees for “services” that involve systematic, recurrent, felony penal code violations – such as false arrest, false imprisonment, assault and human trafficking – and recouping those funds from the federal government and private parties by reporting them as legitimate Medicaid/Medicare claims, is also money laundering under 18 U.S.C. § 1956(a)(1).   There is no private cause of action under this law in the US.
Animal welfare laws (this may sound crazy, but shouldn't animal rights apply if none of the above laws pertaining to humans do?)  

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