Wednesday, June 9, 2010


Today's Chicago Tribune carries a story all about how mentally ill people should be immune from criminal prosecution because their "brain diseases" cause their violent behavior.

As usual, Mark Heyrman, the leading local proponent of this radical jurisprudence, is cited.

The illustrative narrative in this particular piece concerns Adam Rotheimer, a supposed schizophrenic who told a social worker he wanted to get an AK-47 and kill a judge along with all the people helping him. Professor Heyrman and several other authorities are dismayed that the social worker was obliged to report the threat, because the resulting arrest of Rotheimer was such an affront to that Holy of Holies, psychiatric "treatment".

Ira Burnim of the Washington, DC-based Baselon Center said, "If you want people to avoid mental health treatment, the best way to do that is to ensure they're treated like criminals when they get it."

I see it differently than Heyrman and Burnim. People naturally avoid mental health treatment to the extent that it hurts them rather than helps them, which is a very large extent. Refusing "treatment" is criminalized much more than getting it. Without state coercion on their side, most psychiatrists would be unable to make a living by plying their desperate, ugly political trade.

The Trib article, while purporting to present the problem of Adam Rotheimer's mental health, quotes only others. Adam's mother's and sister's views are presented, as though of course, they have only his best interests in mind, and as though of course, their evaluations of all issues can and should be substituted for Adam's own.

I have represented plenty of people in Adam's situation. Lots of my clients have been plenty crazy, committed violent crimes, and/or caused reasonable fear of harm to those around them. I can say, after nine years of work as an attorney exclusively in this special area (with which most of my colleagues want nothing to do), that this "mental illness" explanation/excuse does not open the door to any solution whatsoever. It makes everything worse, except in the occasional circumstance of an immediate necessity for self defense. (I.e., if somebody's attacking and beating up everyone in sight, a shot of Haldol, like a stun gun, is perfectly appropriate.)

Adam Rotheimer was supposedly "voluntarily committed" in March. This is a cynical euphemism. Adam was told that if he didn't sign a certain document, he'd be involuntarily committed by court order. The document was called a "five-day release". This is a fraudulent, although fairly universal characterization. The form is really used to relieve the hospital of its duty to make legal arguments in court for holding a patient against his or her will, so insurance payments can be collected until coverage runs out without a bill for attorney hours.

Adam's "treatment" is portrayed as something which can keep him out of legal trouble. Nonsense. How long has he been in "treatment"? Why is he in legal trouble now? There are plenty of people who believe, based on substantial evidence, that psychotropic medications cause violence instead of preventing it.

Forensic psychiatry is a corrupt, anti-scientific political racket. History will record our modern love affair with medical solutions to obnoxious and violent behavior as much akin to the 300-year European prosecution of witches. Why does everyone believe in these "brain diseases" which have never been evidenced by any objective signs, for which no etiology can be discovered, and which are admittedly voted into and out of existence according to changing cultural whim?

The answer to the initial question in the Trib article is that there is no line between mental illness and bad behavior.

It costs four times as much per day to involuntarily "treat" someone as it does to imprison them. The result is not better. We are deluded.


  1. I think the author of this article was highly selective in his reporting of interviews and even then some of the animosity still shines through. The quote from the mother was quite indicative of both the patient's and the family's situation: "I don't trust anyone anymore," she said. The family also seems to be have been historically critical of the Lake County political system and for the Lake County Prosecutor's Office to say that they didn't recognize the family name seems disingenuous, at best.

    At least once this poor guy gets more experience with mental health under his belt, he'll learn not to make specific, actionable threats, but to stick to ambiguously over-arching but neutral suggestions.

    I find that mental health professionals invoke that "doctor-patient privilege" in order to cover their sorry, lying butts. It's certainly not there to protect the patient. Whenever outside third parties become involved in the "psychiatric treatment" milieu and they see that the "help" isn't being that helpful, more often than not mental health professionals start yelling to pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. And then they scramble to blame everyone and everything else but themselves-- the legal system, the insurance companies, the family or the patient.

    Sadly, however, mental health professionals are more than willing to charge the patient with a crime if that patient has physically assaulted the staff.

    BTW, from my experience with the mental health system, I always considered Haldol to be a recreational drug. Sorry. That's just the way I'm wired. When can I get my next hit, dude?

  2. You're wired very strangely indeed. Never knew anybody who loved Haldol before. But it demonstrates something I've long known - psychotropics are wild variables.