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BRENTWOOD / Pilgrim Patient Wins a Stay Paul Henri Thomas, 49, the Pilgrim Psychiatric Center patient who is challenging the state facility's decision to give him electroshock treatments, will not have to undergo the procedure, at least for now, pending a decision from an appellate court.

On Monday, attorneys for Thomas secured from the Appellate Division a temporary stay of an order signed by State Supreme Court Justice W. Bromley Hall. Hall's order approved Pilgrim's request to administer 40 electroshock treatments.

The stay will remain in effect at least until Monday, the deadline by which Pilgrim officials must file papers with the Appellate Division, said Kim Darrow, an attorney for the state Mental Hygiene Legal Service, which represents Thomas.

After that, a four-judge panel will review the arguments from both sides and decide whether to grant another stay while the court reviews Thomas' appeal.

The stay, granted by Justice David S. Ritter, asks Pilgrim to make a case as to why shock treatments should not be prohibited while the court reviews Hall's order, which was signed April 20.

That order came after a weeks-long hearing in which Thomas challenged an application by Pilgrim in February to administer the 40 shock treatments. Hall ruled that the expert witnesses who testified for Thomas were not credible, saying in conclusion that the treatments are in Thomas' "best interest." Thomas, who Pilgrim doctors say displays signs of mental illnesses ranging from schizoaffective disorder to bipolar mania, has been in the Brentwood facility since May 1999.

He has received about 60 shocks in all, almost all of them against his will. Thomas signed papers consenting to the treatments in June 1999.

He underwent three procedures and then refused them. That's when doctors at Pilgrim sought court approval for the procedure, arguing that Thomas did not have the mental capacity to make medical decisions for himself.


OPINION

04/28/2001 - Saturday - Page A 16

LETTERS

'Where's the Outrage?' Paul Henri Thomas, an American citizen, is being subjected to court-authorized electroshock treatments ["Judge: Continue Electroshocks," April 17]. Against his will, despite evidence that these shocks may result in memory loss, the New York State Supreme Court has allowed this barbaric forced practice to continue. It is compelling the physical assault-repeated electroshocks-on the mind of a man who does not want this treatment.

Where's the outrage, America? I am outraged. I, like Thomas, suffer from bipolar illness. Unlike Thomas, I have never undergone electroconvulsive therapy. But I have experienced the horror of involuntary psychiatric treatment, from forced injection of Thorazine to restraint in a strait-jacket and isolation in a windowless cell. I can imagine Thomas' terror each time he faces another compulsory "treatment."
Dwight E. Smith Waterford, Maine

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The Shocking Truth  A series on ECT, research flaws, forced treatment, and much more, by journalist Liz Spikol, of the Philadelphia Weekly.


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