April 11, 2005
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Prisoner fails in High Court razor challenge.
The Birmingham Post (England); 4/7/2005
A suicidal prisoner has failed in a High Court bid for the right to be given razors so that he can cut and mutilate himself to relieve the stresses which could ultimately cause him to kill himself.
A judge ruled that the ``grotesque'' suggestion that lifer Jeffrey Watkins should be provided with the means to self-harm ``flies in the face of what we regard as civilized standards''. Watkins is on suicide watch at Rye Hill prison at Onley, near Rugby, Warwicks, where he is serving his life sentence. The court heard that Watkins had made ``very serious'' attempts to commit suicide in the past His counsel Flo Krause said he suffered from bipolar disorder, or manic depression, had been a persistent self-harmer for many years, and medical experts agreed that cutting himself ``lifts his mood'' by releasing endorphins into his system, thereby making suicide less likely.
Mr Justice Newman, sitting at the High Court in London, said Watkins was asserting that, under the European Convention on Human Rights, ``he has the right to mutilate himself with razor blades to the extent of cutting to the muscle, and that the (Home Secretary) is legally bound to facilitate that mutilation by providing him with hygienic razor blades and sterile first aid equipment''. He also wanted less supervision and to be left in the dark at night.
Rejecting the challenge, the judge said: ``It is offensive to the individual, it is offensive to the (prison) staff and to the Prison Service and it flies in the face of what we regard as civilized standards''.
Ms Krause, who waived her barrister's fee to raise Watkins' human rights case, argued the Prison Service policy in respect of self-harm and suicide was so ``intrusive'' it was increasing stress and adding to the danger Watkins would commit suicide Ms Krause said: ``He is not arguing for the right to die. On the contrary, he is arguing for measures to be limited so that he doesn't die in custody. He is seeking to preserve his life and not to die.''
The judge said Watkins' ``stark and sad'' case was ``unarguable''. He ruled: ``It would in my judgment be a strange state of affairs in a civilized society if the humanity of a policy of protection should be susceptible to this sort of challenge by reference to the European Convention on Human Rights
COPYRIGHT 2005 Birmingham Post & Mail Ltd
Woman Says ME Took Her Brother's Brain
AP Online; 4/10/2005; GENE JOHNSON, Associated Press Writer
The claim, the first step toward suing the county, is the first legal action in Washington state concerning a brain-collection program at the Stanley Medical Research Institute in Bethesda, Md. Lawsuits have already been filed in Maine alleging that brains were taken there without full consent.
"I was just horrified at this," the woman, Bobbi Amaker of Fayetteville, N.C., said Friday. "You have to obtain consent from people to do things to the body."
The nonprofit Stanley institute awarded the King County Medical Examiner's Office in Seattle $147,500 a year from 1995-2002, and $204,000 in 2003, to hire a pathologist and technical support to provide brain and other tissue from the bodies of schizophrenic or bipolar people to its laboratory, which researches mental illness and provides brain tissue samples to other researchers worldwide.
Over the course of the grant, which ended in mid-2004, the office provided Stanley with 255 brains, one of which was that of Bradley Gierlich, Amaker's brother, who died in October 1998, said James Apa, a spokesman for the county health department. Apa acknowledged that the county reviewed 186 cases of brain harvesting from 1998 to 2004, and Gierlich's was the only one for which the medical examiner's office could not find a written consent form.
The office did find, however, a record of a follow-up interview with Gierlich's aunt a month or so later to determine more information about his mental condition _ and that interview would never have been conducted had the office not believed it had consent, Apa said.
"We do not have the consent form on file," Apa said. "It appears there was a misunderstanding with the family. The medical examiner made several attempts to contact the family to express our regret."
Apa said he could not comment on the claim itself or whether the county intended to pay it. He emphasized that, contrary to a recent Seattle television news report, the medical examiner's office was not paid for the brains it collected and in no way profited from the program. The grant money merely covered the cost of the pathologist and technical support.
Gierlich, who was labeled mentally retarded as a child and began using drugs in early adulthood, died of a heroin overdose at age 41. Amaker, an occupational therapist who suspects her brother was actually autistic, said she did not learn his brain had been removed until she was contacted recently by a reporter from the Portland Press Herald in Maine _ long after she had her brother's remains cremated.
In Maine, a one-time state funeral home inspector was paid $1,000 per month by Stanley plus $1,000 per brain collected _ about $150,000 in all, a federal lawsuit has alleged. That lawsuit seeks class-action status for the families of 99 deceased Maine residents from whom brains were taken between 1999 and 2003.
That lawsuit contends that the inspector routinely approached survivors during a time of grief and requested the donation of tissue samples. Instead of samples, the lawsuit claims, entire brains were shipped to Bethesda.
Some Washington state residents have made similar complaints, though the King County Medical Examiner's Office maintains that it was clear the whole brain would be taken.
Avis Clark, of Vancouver, Wash., said Friday that she was contacted after her son, Duane Lee Clark, died at age 44. Duane had suffered from schizophrenia since he was a college freshman.
"I did receive a call asking me permission to take a sample," she said. "I was interested in finding a cure, so I gave them permission over the phone."
She said she didn't know if she would have given the same permission had she known they would take the whole brain. Nor had she ever heard that the brain was sent to a research facility on the East Coast.
In a statement on its Web site, Stanley said its brain collection was formed to help remedy a global shortage of human brain specimens, a shortage that had proved to be a serious hurdle in the understanding of mental illness.
"To our knowledge, the person obtaining consent explains the donation of the brain to the next of kin, and the consent forms have stated that the donation includes brain and other tissue, without limitation on the amount or size of donated tissue," the statement said.
Bill Lynn of Vashon Island said the medical examiner's office wasn't clear when it asked for permission to take the brain of his schizophrenic son, Gary, who died in November 1998.
"I assumed it would be the total brain. They wanted to examine it to see the effects of schizophrenia," Lynn said. "I said yes. I think Gary would have liked that, and that's why I gave permission."
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