Man Says More Rights Violated
Wednesday, March 28th 2001
Zachary R. Dowdy, Staff Writer
In recent weeks, Paul Henri Thomas has become Long Island's most visible and vocal opponent to electroshock treatment, a procedure he has undergone at Pilgrim Psychiatric Center nearly 60 times against his will since he was confined there in May 1999.
His fight against the treatment has spilled into public forums, including news media and the Internet, but most notably state Supreme Court in Central Islip, as he challenges the state's application to give him 40 more shocks.
He has called the procedure a form of "torture," claiming doctors at Pilgrim are violating his constitutional right to refuse the treatment.
Now, Thomas, 49, and his attorneys say Pilgrim officials are violating another basic right-freedom to speak his mind about electroshock treatment-by monitoring his conversations with people who visit him at Pilgrim in Central Islip. And, they say, the restrictions that have been imposed on Thomas are in retaliation for his efforts to publicize his plight.
"Under the guise of seeing whether he is competent to do such things as sign papers or have a conversation, they are providing obstacles for his free communication to the public about his views on what's happening to him," said Dennis Feld, deputy chief attorney for the state Mental Hygiene Legal Service, which is representing Thomas.
Jill Daniels, a spokeswoman for the state Office of Mental Health in Albany, declined to comment, citing ongoing litigation.
Feld, whose agency filed the lawsuit Friday in Federal Court, said Pilgrim officials have placed Thomas under so-called one-to-one observation. That designation means Thomas cannot sign papers or have a conversation with anyone outside of his family or attorneys without a Pilgrim staff member present.
Thomas, who Feld said receives visitors almost daily, seeks a declaration from the court that his rights were violated, an order barring the restrictions, in addition to attorney fees and monetary damages.
The one-to-one designation, Feld said, is normally applied to patients who have been "acting out," or who do not have the mental capacity to sign papers.
The lawsuit comes as State Supreme Court Justice W. Bromley Hall tries to decide whether Thomas has the capacity to refuse the treatment and whether shock treatment is appropriate therapy for him.
This article was written by Zachary R. Dowdy, Staff Writer and published by Newsday, Page A 31 on Wednesday, March 28th 2001 and NOT owned by nor affiliated with opacity.us, but are recorded here solely for educational use. The photographs featured in the article are randomly selected from the Pilgrim State Hospital galleries on opacity.us unless noted otherwise; they may not directly relate to the article subject matter except for the site location - any other relation is purely coincidental.