Recommended Reading for October 26, 2010

firecat at Party in my head (DW): How To Be Sick

I went to this talk because I have chronic health conditions that affect my mobility and energy levels, and I am a caregiver for my mother, who has Alzheimers. I’m a Buddhist and my study of Buddhism has helped me work through grieving over these things and building a life around them, and I wanted to hear a talk that specifically addressed how Buddhism can help a person deal with chronic illness. I figured that I already knew a lot of what she was going to say, but I thought I’d learn a few things and find out that I’m already doing a lot of what there is to do, and that would help me feel more confident.

beautyofgrey at The Truth That Came Before (DW): On invisible illnesses and harmful judgment

Our illness is invisible. At first, even I did not want to see our illness. I wrote it off as “discipline problems” or “unresolved anger” and resolved to become a better disciplinarian, better parent, and to slowly count to ten. I assumed it might be due to changes in our life. Later, doctors did not want to see our illness. Everyone had a healthy weight and height. They wrote it off as “difficult phases” and assumed that the problem resided at home. They asked us to wait a year or two before we considered whether the chaos, aggression, and emotional stress weren’t just tricks before our eyes. Our illness was invisible, because we were not “that bad off”.

kankurette at The Hidden Village of Aspergers: Happy Mental Health Day. If “happy” is an appropriate adjective

I’d always been a melancholy kid. Think Marvin, Eeyore, Cassandra, the Ides of March. I just went along with it. In my teenage years, I had moments where I was suicidal, and I started self-harming at 14, but I just put it down to teenage angst. Depression wasn’t an illess, I believed. It couldn’t happen to me. Even though my mum turned into a wreck after my dad died and spent days in bed, even though she had panic attacks in front of us and seemed to be more temperamental and headachey than usual, even though the doctor gave her pills to take, I just thought she was sad; I didn’t realise she was ill.

K__ at Feminists with FSD: Interesting posts, some time in October

I have a feeling we’re probably going to see another spike in coverage about Flibanserin, (I’m thinking certain feminist websites are more likely to cover it than others, and maybe some op-ed pieces in mainstream newspapers, as well as others) and when we do see it, I can guarantee you it’s going to get real ugly, real fast. Everyone, get your bingo boards ready to go if you’ll be doing any reading on the matter. If you see any new and bizarre arguments about FSD and why no woman, anywhere, ever, needs medication for sexual desire problems ever, in comment sections to the inevitable anti-Flibanserin posts, let me know; we may have to produce a version 2.0 if we keep running into the same old shit again and again.

Lisa at Sociological Images: What is Intelligence?

We often think that intelligence is somehow “innate,” as if we are born with a certain IQ that is more or less inflexible.  These scores suggest, however, that our potential for abstract thought, though it may be located in the biological matter of the brain, is actually quite malleable.

(Note: For a further discussion of the concept of “intelligence” and its history, see kaninchenzero’s AWP post on Intelligence.)

If you’re on Delicious, feel free to tag entries ‘disfem’ or ‘disfeminists,’ or ‘for:feminists’ to bring them to our attention! Link recommendations can also be emailed to recreading at disabledfeminists dot com. Please note if you would like to be credited, and under what name/site.

Signal Boost: Asians and Pacific Islanders with Disabilities of California (APIDC) Statewide Disabilities Conference This Weekend!

Please join Asians and Pacific Islanders with Disabilities of California (APIDC) and the City of Long Beach First Lady Nancy Foster as we hear from service providers, parent support groups, role models, educators, policy makers, advocates, job placement organizations and agencies, and others who share a common vision-of providing consumers the tools to realize their fullest potential, the tools for self determination.

Day 1 of the Conference will be geared towards bridging the mainstream service providers with the Asian Pacific Islander American community based organizations and consumers-to identify ways to better serve the hard to reach population of Asian and Pacific Islanders with physical and mental disabilities.

Day 2 of the Conference will be geared towards closing the information gap for the consumers and their families. Panelists and the audience will identify concrete ways to secure and maximize services, educational opportunities, and networking for Asian and Pacific Islanders with physical and mental disabilities.

More information here.

Signal Boost: Blog Carnival of Mental Health

Over at Astrid’s Journal, Astrid has a proposal up discussing a Blog Carnival of  Mental Health:

I was thinking about either a monthly or quarterly carnival, depending on interest. I would be willing to host the first carnival, but I need other mental health bloggers interested in taking over from me. So, if you are interested, please let me know.

She’s getting things rolling in comments  but could use more hosts, and I want to make sure people are aware it’s going on because I think it’s a fabulous idea, and there will probably be a call for submissions soon.

Thyroid Cancer Treatment Affects the Abled, Healthy. Everyone Panic!

I have a little bit of a problem with people being handed down a mandate that insists they behave in a certain way or adhere to a certain set of guidelines for which they are not provided the means to do so. Usually, these rules or mandates are set by people whose lives the rules will never affect. I see it all the time here on the Garrison — rules that restrict the lives of military spouses set by Upper Brass who wear uniforms and sit in offices all day being briefed by people who don’t have to figure out how to tote around a couple of toddlers, diaper bags, strollers, car seats in case they might need a taxi while running to appointments, getting groceries, and picking up or dropping off older children at school without having a vehicle. I recently witnessed it in hospital policy regarding patients on long-term controlled substance use (something I should write another post about, eh?) — a pharmacist notices a patient prescribed a certain medication for a certain length of time, alerts a committee who sends out a generic letter triggering a “Single Provider” program without anyone actually meeting the patient involved.

Now, I read that a Congressional committee has noticed that patient being treated with radiation for thyroid cancer have been possibly exposing other people to, yes, radiation.

Well, let’s think about this for a moment. In the past, people who had thyroid cancer and who were insured and who were given this treatment were allowed a hospital stay so that the very strict regimen of sterility could be followed without putting extra strain on the patient. Then, someone got an itch and decided that it was just too costly to keep this up and that these leaches could just go home and do their own laundry every day. Not to mention, I am not sure what they are supposed to do with their garbage, how they are supposed to quarantine themselves from their families if they don’t have separate wings in their homes to live in, or how they are supposed to get home if they are weak from treatment and live alone.

The new regulations are supposed to discourage patients from taking public transportation, from staying in hotels, and from a whole slew of other things that really don’t take simple practicality into account. I think we can all agree that not exposing people to radiation is all around a good idea. I have no idea how much we are talking about, and the hyperbolic pictures of HAZMAT masks on the paper edition article I read didn’t help, but it must be significant if it is causing such a stir. Though, spokesman David McIntyre says it is “unclear” if the levels are harmful.

I remember getting a bone scan a few years ago and the tech had to wear a suit, and the dye they injected into me came in a lead tube. I was told I had to avoid metal detectors and public transit for a few days and was given a card to show that I was recently injected with radioactive substances. But I was a single mother, and a sailor, and I had no one else to help me out. Back to work I went, showing my card to security, who walked me through the non-metal detector way. I picked up my kid from daycare later, and drove myself home. I imagine that someone who has no support system who might be in a similar or worse situation would have to make similar decisions. So, I can see how people would disregard directions to go straight home.

Perhaps home is a day’s drive. Perhaps home is filled with young children and has only one car available. A hotel and train ride might be the only option, since the loosened restrictions mean that insurance will not pay for a hospital room that is no longer required. Or perhaps there is no insurance at all, and it was all a patient could manage to scrape up the cost of the treatment in the first place. There are so many reasons that these restrictions are not being followed, and I feel like this article, this committee, and this investigation are looking more at the people who are ‘violating’ the rules and less at the systemic problems that cause them to do so.

So, yes, those poor, unsuspecting people who have fallen victim to the carelessness of these cancer patients who have been so selfish to expose themselves to the world are who we should be focusing on. They are the true victims here, not the people who are trying to get healthy again, whose bodies are fighting cancer, and living with poison in them, and who are also now having to deal with the extra burden of a cumbersome set of rules of conduct for how to navigate live with a poison inside their bodies. The conversation is not, nor never is it, about them, but about the people around them whose lives are affected by their treatments, the ways those treatments impact their lives. All about the abled body, never the chronically sick or disabled unless it somehow affects the healthy and able.

Unless Congress is willing to establish a way to provide a place for these people to stay — all of them — I don’t see how a more enforced set of restrictions is reasonable. You can’t force a person to stay in a place they have to pay for against their will, and you should not be able to punish them because they had to use the resources available to them to survive.

These are just my own personal musings. I, of course, have no personal experience with these situations, but I grieve at the idea of restrictions that people might not be able to handle through no fault of their own.

I wonder if Representative Edward Markey (D – MA) and the Subcommittee on Energy and Environment are interested in hearing any of our thoughts on this matter while they re-think the policy.

Creative Work: Circle Stories, by Riva Lehrer

Riva Lehrer is a disabled painter who produces, among many other things, depictions of disabled bodies:

For Lehrer, the disabled body is intensely beautiful—memorable, unexpected, and lived in with great self-awareness. These are not bodies that are taken for granted or left unexplored. This beauty has often stayed unseen despite the constant, invasive public stare. Disability is complex; it demands images that combine hard facts with unexpected gifts. (source)

Her collection ‘Circle Stories’ consists of a series of portraits of prominent people with disabilities:

The term “Circle Stories” refers to multiple aspects of the project. The portraiture method is a circular one, involving extensive interviews with each participant, in which we talk about their lives, work, and understanding of disability. Through this collaborative process, we seek imagery that is a truthful representation of their experience.

In addition, the circle of the wheelchair is the nearly universal symbol of disability, a wheel that transforms the ordinary object of the chair into the mark of physical and social difference.

Some images from ‘Circle Stories’:

Susan Nussbaum, a woman seated on a balcony outdoors with a distant view of the ocean. She is gazing intently at the painter and a blanket is draped over her right shoulder.

Susan Nussbaum, an active member of the theatre community as well as a disability rights activist.

Rebecca Maskos, a woman with disabilities seated on a snowy stone wall with a blue bird hovering above her.

Rebecca Maskos is a German disability rights activist and artist.

“The body is the first story; our text of first meeting. I see you, you see me, skin, bone, eyes, hair: assumptions pour forth like a rip in a dam. See the thousand imprints of sex, nation, money, clues to the familiar and exotic. We read and decide in eyeblink time. When bone and blood show an unfamiliar shape, the judgments freeze into a first, rigid wall between you and I. So paint the story of surface and bone explicit, unavoidable, and ask what did you fear then and what do you think now.” (source)

This piece isn’t from ‘Circle Stories’ but I love it too much not to share:

A woman with disabilities in the woods in autumn. She is surrounded by bones and a paintbox lies next to her.

‘Into the Yellow Woods.’ I’m in a rather dark mood right now and this painting speaks to me.

You can see more of Lehrer’s work at her website!

Recommended Reading for 25 October 2010

Warning: Offsite links are not safe spaces. Articles and comments in the links may contain ableist, sexist, and other -ist language and ideas of varying intensity. Opinions expressed in the articles may not reflect the opinions held by the compiler of the post and links are provided as topics of interest and exploration only. I attempt to provide extra warnings for material like extreme violence/rape; however, your triggers/issues may vary, so please read with care.

Indigo Jo sends in two links about the same story, one from Mail Online: Joyfully kissing her beautiful baby boy – the girl branded too stupid to be a wife or mother

When she became unexpectedly pregnant they were pleased rather than concerned. They had organised a white wedding in church, bought a dress and rings, arranged the reception and were eagerly anticipating their big day.

Mark recalls: ‘We were about to go out and make a few final arrangements for our wedding when we heard a frantic rapping at the front door.

‘When we opened it, two social workers burst in and told us that the marriage was illegal because Kerry has learning difficulties. They said she did not possess the capacity to make such a decision.’

Then came the second bombshell – their baby would be removed at birth. Once again, social workers believed her learning difficulties could lead to the baby suffering ‘emotional harm’.

‘It was as if I didn’t matter as a father,’ recalls Mark.

‘By stopping our wedding, social workers had taken away my rights as the baby’s dad. The fact that I would always be there to look after Ben as well didn’t seem to make any difference.’

He now believes that Fife social services had made up their minds that Kerry would not be able to keep the baby even before they had assessed her as a parent.

Because of this, days later the couple made the heart-wrenching decision to flee the UK and go to Ireland because they believed Irish social workers would prove more sympathetic.

And also, his own take on the story: “Too stupid” family reunited in Ireland

Still, the facts as presented do raise an awful lot of concern. Kerry supposedly had mild learning difficulties, but despite having worked successfully as a childcare assistant at a local school, social workers deemed her unfit to look after her own child. They also seemed to be treating the case as if it consisted of a lone parent with intellectual disabilities, not as a committed couple in which only one party had any impairment. When they arrived in Ireland and Kerry gave birth, social services removed the baby and reunited only Kerry with Ben two weeks later, expecting her to prove herself to them on her own, rather than as she would be living, with her partner. Of course, there would be times when she would be left alone with the baby, but these would not be all the time when her husband was not around, as she would likely have friends with their own babies who would be able to give her some support.

Walking is Overrated: Government bullying must stop

I’ll say it again: everyone does it. Disability support funding is limited, and the constraints around it are incredibly restrictive. For many parents of children with significant disabilities, it means they are unable to work, as they spend most of their time supporting their kid. Of course they’re going to attempt to get a small amount of compensation for this work – in this case, $40,000 over 8 years, of money that they were entitled to anyway. Yet the Ministry sees fit to chase them down and slam them with 5 months home detention.

The Guardian: The new anorexics: big increase in eating disorders among women over 30

Dr Adrienne Key, the lead clinician for eating disorders treatment at the Priory clinic in Roehampton, south-west London, said: “In the last 18 months I’ve seen 10 women in their mid to late-30s, mainly with bulimia, who have had a baby in the previous few years and have had increased body dissatisfaction. They start dieting but then try more drastic measures such as skipping meals or going on these strange protein, no-carbs diets, and then their starvation triggers the biology of an eating disorder.”

msnbc.com: Minorities get less treatment for their pain

A recent study by Green of 200 chronic pain patients in the University of Michigan health system found that black patients were prescribed fewer pain medications than whites and that women were given weaker pain medications than men were given. The research published in the Journal of Pain showed that, on average, a minority pain patient would be prescribed 1.8 pain medications compared to 2.6 drugs for non-minority sufferers.

OHS Canada: Employers may be legally on the hook for mental injury

Kathy Jurgens, program manager for Mental Health Works, a corporate training program offered by the Canadian Mental Health Association in Toronto, says that a changing view of the workplace is allowing the concept of psychological safety to take hold.

“If you think of the younger generation, they have different expectations of what work means to them and what they’re willing to engage in for a paycheque,” she points out, adding that younger workers are less likely to accept a workplace that expects chronic overtime and unreasonable demands. “I think it’s long overdue,” Jurgens says of the current approach to psychological safety, suggesting that mental injury in the workplace has been a problem for hundreds of years.

If you’re on Delicious, feel free to tag entries ‘disfem’ or ‘disfeminists,’ or ‘for:feminists’ to bring them to our attention! Link recommendations can also be emailed to recreading at disabledfeminists dot com. Please note if you would like to be credited, and under what name/site.

Dear Imprudence: Don’t Talk About Us, Talk With Us

A recent Dear Abby had a question from an employer with a disabled staffer who wants the staffer to feel comfortable at work:

Dear Abby: I run a successful restaurant business. One of my key employees, “Zayne,” has Tourette’s syndrome. He has been a loyal and valuable waiter for many years.

When customers ask what is wrong with him because he makes noises or hits himself, how should I respond? Most of our regular customers understand his condition and ignore it. However, we do get the occasional socially inept customer who gawks or asks rude questions.

I would defend and protect Zayne. He knows people ask about him, and if they question him, he tells them about his condition. What’s the best way to respond politely to people who don’t have a clue? —Zayne’s Boss in the Pacific Northwest

Abby nailed it in her response:

Dear Boss: If you are asked about Zayne, tell the questioner, “That’s Zayne. He has been a valued employee here for many years. If you want an answer to your question, ask him.”

I liked her response for several reasons. The first was that it’s extremely common for people to talk about (and speculate about) people with disabilities instead of just approaching them directly. It would be nice if we lived in a world where people didn’t feel it was entirely appropriate to ask questions about someone with a disability, but at the very least, if people feel compelled to ask those questions anyway, they should be asking the disabled person, not someone else. And they should be prepared for a response that isn’t necessarily polite, either. If people say ‘oh but I’m too shy to ask directly’ then one might reasonably ask why they think the question needs to be asked at all.

I also like that although she didn’t explicitly spell it out, the framing of her response very much put the kibosh on the ‘defend and protect’ idea put forward in the letter. We don’t need to be ‘defended and protected.’ We need to live in a world where we aren’t objects of curiosity and speculation. Since we don’t live in that world, asking people to interact directly with us instead of around us is a good first step.

‘Defending’ us doesn’t address the social attitudes behind disability speculation. It reduces the problem to a personal one, rather than a larger structural issue; the problem isn’t that one person with disabilities attracts curiosity, it is that members of society as a whole think it’s appropriate to query the people who work with/around a disabled person about that person’s disabilities and that these same people won’t interact directly with the person they are asking about.

The critical thing she left out: She could have suggested that Zayne’s Boss ask Zane how he would prefer to have these situations dealt with.

Connections

Chally pointed out to me the other day that I was coming up on 100 posts. If scheduling goes right, this should be it. I wasn’t sure what to do with it. I noticed, but I wasn’t sure if I should mention it. She has a knack for making people feel proud of things, no matter how trivial they seem to a person, she can make it seem like you’ve won the Pulitzer on your worst day.

It’s funny, the things you learn over the course of all of those 100 posts, or at least I did. Also funny are the way we assign value to things as arbitrary as numbers. Why is this post more important than the next or my last? Why does the first death in a war mean more or less than the 1,000th? Some people have written more, and some less, and for each of us our number is irrelevant. For me, I have a thing about marking out nice round things in ordinal series. Some birthdays are a bigger deal to me I suppose, though my mother remembers all of the recent ones.

It is, instead, what we put in and take away from a moment that matters more so than the number.

I, back when I first started blogging back at my humble little blog, wanted to be part of a group blog. Not for page hits or attention, but to be part of something. To feel that sense of belonging to a group, of being with people who had a sense of purpose. So many things in my life were constantly in disarray, and I wanted… no, honestly I needed something to feel connected to.

And it took a while, but by a random happenstance I was in the right place at the right time, and fell in with a remarkable group of people who came together to channel something hurtful into something positive, because instead of allowing ourselves to be angry, we decided to focus on being a force for change. Thus, did my life take me in a direction I never saw it going, because I had just begun to grasp onto this part of me that was OK with identifying as someone who is disabled. Not only that, I had not really learned how to interact with other people who identified that way. I was shy about venturing out as any kind of public face, let alone as any kind of self-spoken authority. Who was I, I wondered, to pretend that what I had to say mattered?

But I found out that it did matter. Not because, necessarily, that anything particular I had to say matter, but that I took a brave step and spoke up. I have always felt that the shortcomings in my life — my lack of college degree or extensive career — made me less of a credible person. What I found here was that it is the way we, as a community, relate to one another. I found that here I have a voice that matters, if not to many people, perhaps to just a few, perhaps to just one, and if I am brave enough perhaps I can be the advocate for that one person. If one person feels connected to this the way I finally feel connected then I feel that it has been worth all the tears and heart that have been poured into these 100 posts over these past months.

Even more, I found that these remarkable people, these co-contributors and founding members, have become something so deeply ingrained in my life now that not a day goes by that I don’t think of every single one of them and how they have impacted my life. I think about the way that Anna taught me to look at everything I see and think about how it could be more accessible and not to feel bad about demanding that it be so, and how lauredhel reminds me that part of being a good mum is teaching more independence because it leaves me more spoons to enjoy the fun times. I am reminded of the way that K-0 uses words artfully and lovingly, and the way that Amandaw reminds me of myself sometimes with her fierceness to defend fellow PWD. I think about Chally, who is often there at the right moment with the exact right thing to say, and abbyjean, who has a knack for looking at things from a different angle and getting to the quick of it. I can’t forget annaham, who was the first person to reach out to me and help me identify with my disability and to realize it is OK to be unsure of myself and to find strength in asking for help, and I can’t forget s.e. smith whose passion holds it all together and who sees the way everything is connected.

All of these lives have become intertwined with mine, irrevocably. All of you have become a part of it, for the part you play in reading these posts, linking them, sending them around the tubes of inter. We have all made connections and many of us have touched and impacted one another’s lives in many ways. There is amazing power in that… or, there has been for me, anyway. It is what has made the FWD dashboard the first thing I look at on a day I can work and the last thing I check before bed on the same.

I just wanted you to all know that. This is what I have taken away from these 100 posts, and I hope that is what I have put into them for you. That we, as a community of people who want social change for people with disabilities, have reached out and touched across the expanse of space and time, to be slightly cliche. You have impacted me, taught me, and given me more than I deserve, but given me everything that I had been searching for. I hope that through my learning, screwing up, and trying to get it right, I have done a decent job for you all. All of you, contributor and community member alike.

Thank you.

Signal Boost: Voting Rights for People With Disabilities in California

If you’re a disabled voter in California and you encounter problems at the polls on 2 November, Disability Rights California wants to hear about it!

VOTE Tuesday, November 2, 2010!

If you are an individual with a disability and encounter problems such as

  • Accessing your polling place
  • Voting Privately and Independently
  • Casting your vote

Then call

1-800-776-5746
TTY: 1-800-719-5798

For assistance in languages other than English and Spanish, you may be put on hold while we connect with interpreters.

You can spread the word about this service by sharing this voting flyer (pdf) or (rtf). The flyer is also avilable in Spanish (pdf) #F001.02,Korean (pdf) #F001.03, Chinese (pdf) #F001.04, Vietnamese (pdf)#F001.05, and Russian (pdf) #F001.07.

“The Challenge of Mental Illness in the Justice System” – Part 2: Civil Court

This is the second in a three-part post about a talk given by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, The Right Honourable Beverley McLachlin, about the interactions between people who are mentally ill (her term) and the justice system of Canada. Part 1 briefly discussed the history of the treatment of people with mental illness in Canada, and then described the current situation with regards to the criminal court system. This part will discuss the interactions between people with a mental illness and the civil courts. (Everything in quotes is from my notes, which are not verbatim.)

One of the anecdotes the Chief Justice opened her talk with was about an incident that occurred when she was articling. She discussed receiving a phone call from a woman who had been institutionalized, and told her that she only had two minutes to be on the phone. “I’ve been locked up, and I need to get out,” she whispered. The Chief Justice related how this woman had been forcedly institutionalized by her very respectable husband, who decided she was “overly emotionally, somewhat hysterical, had convinced the doctor to sign the papers. The authorities had come and she was taken to the mental institution.”

I got the impression – perhaps wrongly – that the Chief Justice wanted us to see this woman as someone who had been wrongfully institutionalized because she wasn’t actually mentally ill. She told the anecdote as part of the history of institutionalization, having just described it as a way “to get rid of someone you didn’t want, like a wife giving you trouble.” [s.e. smith wrote about this a bit when reviewing Fingersmith at this ain’t living.] This is a pretty common narrative when people discuss fear of institutionalization, and you’ll often see this story play out in pop culture. It gives the impression that forced institutionalization isn’t wrong, except when it’s someone who’s totally sane. The mentally ill, on the other hand, can be treated without care.

The focus of this section of her talk was on the “difficult ethical and legal problems” arising in the civil court. “On the one hand lies liberty of the individual, and the right of the individual to make decisions. On the other lies the tragic reality that the mentally ill cannot make rational decisions. Surely, their loved ones argue, we should be able to impose treatment to the point where they can have the capacity to make rational decisions about his or her treatment.”

Again, the Chief Justice focused on the change in how people with mental illness can legally be treated as a result of the Charter. She touched briefly on the history of forced hospitalisation, and how this had originally been forced treatment as well. Now, apparently, people are only forced into hospitalisation if they’re considered a danger to themselves or others. (From what I’ve gathered talking to people in Canada who have been hospitalised as a result of mental illness, there’s a lot of pressure to agree. This can vary from loved ones saying “We just want what’s best for you!” and the attendant guilt-related issues, to “if you don’t agree we’ll call the police and you can go to the asylum instead”.)

In describing “the issue being whether the person possess sufficient cognitive ability to make rational treatment decisions about his or her health”, the Chief Justice focused on the particulars of one case, referred to as the Starson Case. [There’s a brief overview of it on Wikipedia, and here are some follow-up news articles and discussion.]

Again, according to my notes:

At the time of the action Professor Starson was detained in a psychiatric hospital as a result of a finding of Not Criminally Responsible. The physicians believed he needed medication, but Professor Starson refused. His physicians found that he was not capable of making a decision with respect to his medical treatment.

He applied to the Ontario Capacity and Consent board to review that decision. The Board agreed with the doctors. He was in almost total denial of the illness (Wikipedia tells me he was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder) so could not relate information to his disorder.

The matter was appealed to the courts and the lower courts in Ontario ruled he was capable of making decisions. This case then went to Supreme Court and the issue was the interpretation of the test for capacity. The majority ruled that Professor Starson had the capacity to make a choice and accordingly the Board’s order was overturned.

The story doesn’t end there. After the Supreme Court decision in 2003, his condition deteriorated. In 2005, his treating physicians found him incapable of managing his care. With his mother providing substitute consent, doctor’s began medicating. In 2007 he was discharged to outpatient status. In 2009, he was still contesting the decision to be forced into treatment.

The Chief Justice then went on to describe the debate about the treatment of people who are mentally ill as being between those that argue that the law should never permit mandatory treatment, and those who argue that mandatory treatment should be expanded to cover more instances than it does. In Canada, she said, “Liberty can be curtailed only exceptionally – when there is genuine risk of harm to his or herself or others, or when a person is cleary incapable of making decisions necessary for medical care.”

One of things I noted in this section of her talk was the very distancing language the Chief Justice used throughout. While at one point she did describe how we can feel sympathy for Professor Starson’s fight to determine his own treatment versus that of his mother’s fight to get him the treatment she felt he needed, most of the time the Chief Justice spoke as though no one in the audience would ever be touched by these decisions. As I said in the first part of this, I’m uncomfortable with a circle drawn around people with a mental health condition, and another around people who work in the legal or medical profession, with no overlap. The whole thing read a bit too much like “you can tell who’s crazy by looking at them, so I know none of you are.”

There is one more part to this discussion, which focuses on the mentally ill as victims of the justice system.