The Language Wars

The language wars are old and have a long history. Take psychiatry, for instance, where “sickness” starts with an insult applied to a human being. The human being thus insulted becomes a patient, and at the same time, is rendered “less” of a human being. Once this insult has been applied, in some cases, the application can lead, in a straightway and thorough-going fashion, directly to the ruination of the patient.  There is, in a concrete sense, no protection from ruination given psychiatric intervention. Psychiatric theory, being negative in general, supports ruination.

A few years back arose what were termed mental patient liberation groups. These mental patient liberation groups were part of a growing movement. It was a mental patients liberation movement that came to be called the psychiatric survivor movement. Eventually, something went haywire. These people who had been justifiably suspicious of the government decided to make a peace pact with the government. They let that government take the reins of their movement. The result goes by many names, but most pointedly, or disappointingly, perhaps, the c/s/x or consumer/survivor/ex-patient movement.

Psychiatry is notorious for its failure to integrate people–damned, divided and conquered by psychiatry–back into society at large. Psychiatry has an expression for its failures. That expression encompasses a set of people psychiatry dubs people, using the currently most political correct expression, with “chronic serious mental illness”. Looked at from another perspective, psychiatry’s failures are actually the secret of its success. People who fail to recover from the mishaps encountered in life keep psychiatrists in business. Once upon a time, psychiatry was a profession made up solely of the superintendents of lunatic asylums in this country. No more. Now there are 48,000 psychiatrists in the USA alone, and they claim that number is way too few to serve the numbers of people who would utilize their services, or disservices, depending on your perspective.

If psychiatrists, and other mental health workers, could be termed the ‘functionaries’ in this field, the patients, or “consumers” as some of them now prefer to be called, could be termed the ‘dysfunctionaries’. Their role in life is primarily to give the mental health worker a purpose through their own lack of a purpose. So-called “chronic mental illness” is defined by psychiatry, with all of its medical pretensions, as ‘dysfunction’. Alright. Now ‘dysfunction’ is a matter of degree, just as jobs can be part time or full time, and so you have a situation developing where ‘dysfunctionaries’ are moonlighting as ‘functionaries’. Because nobody else will hire them, the mental health system has taken the lead in hiring mental patients.

Sometime while you are slogging through a quagmire of gray areas, do you ever feel nostalgic about more basic black and white issues? I mean to say by this that there is a point at which complexity reaches a ridiculous level because the forgotten virtue of simplicity was always more black and white. We are experiencing an epidemic of so-called “mental illness” today and, ironically, mental patients have started working with professionals to escalate this epidemic to even more incredible proportions. I would suggest that if this situation is ever going to change, another role needs to be found for them beyond that of tending to ‘dysfunctionaries’. Just think, taxpayer money is going for the ‘functionaries’ who tend to the ‘dysfunctionaries’, and more and more, both categories are tending towards the synonymously interchangeable. What a savings we would have if we could find a more fruitful position for some of these people, both professional and patient.

Support For Victims of Psychiatric Torture

June 26 around the world is observed as an International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. One form of torture that is not widely recognized is non-consensual mental health treatment. Both the American Civil Liberties Union and Amnesty International have been slow to recognize the brutal cruelty and abuse of forced psychiatry for what many who have endured forced psychiatry know it to be, torture. The United Nations has been a little more receptive on this issue. On March 3rd of this year the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture issued a statement calling for an immediate ban on all forced psychiatric interventions.

How are forced psychiatric interventions torture? Just do a little bit of critical thinking and independent research on the subject, and you will find out how. People are abducted, imprisoned, thrown into solitary confinement, poisoned, physically restrained, chemically restrained, shocked, induced to have seizures, injured, neglected, etc., etc., all in the name of therapy. Without mental health law serving as a contradiction to criminal law these atrocities would not be taking place. This ill treatment constitutes torture. The aim of this torture is to elicit behavior that the state finds acceptable,  to suppress behavior that the state finds unacceptable, and to get the torture victim to admit to having a “mental illness” regardless of whether the victim has an actual illness or not.

Should the victim of psychiatric forced treatment not confess to having a “mental illness”, he or she is then said to be “sicker” than the victim who does confess to having a “mental illness”, and this denial, and/or alleged “co-morbid condition”, is then seen as grounds for further tortures and a lengthier imprisonment. More recent developments in psychiatric torture include what is termed a ‘treatment mall’. This ‘treatment mall’ is actually a reeducation camp and brainwashing center run by the state “hospital” with the aim of churning out a greater number of victims complicit in their own torture and victimization.

We call on people around the world to come together over this issue of forced psychiatry, and to help us put an end to this crime against humanity, once and for all. We would like to see a mental health system in which all patients were voluntary, and in which no patients were held prisoner against their will and wishes. We would like to see mental health facilities that were not psychiatric prisons, but instead were facilities in which clients were free to come and go as they so please and choose. Non-consensual treatments, both inpatient and outpatient, are assaults on the health and the freedom of the species and, therefore, not to be tolerated.

By standing together in solidarity with our brothers and sisters, fellow human beings, victimized by this practice, we can and will bring it to an end. On this day consider what you might be able to do to help your brothers and sisters tortured by forced psychiatry. Although we have been granted the right to receive psychiatric treatment, unlike in any other branch of what purports to be medicine, we have no legal right to refuse such treatment. This right needs to be acknowledged and enacted into law. By joining with us in this struggle, you can help us liberate people from psychiatric slavery–the mistreatments and tortures that have oppressed so many for so long.

There is a better world waiting for us just around the bend. This better world is a world in which people are not oppressed and mistreated by greedy, arrogant and power-crazed traitors to their species. We will not reach this better world unless we make an effort to do so. We have in many nations of the world ended the practice of chattel slavery.  We need to end the practice of psychiatric slavery as well. When we do so, we will be that much closer to the better world for one and all that we have envisioned. Now that we’ve gone there in our heads, we need to take a first few actual steps in that direction. Offering support for victims of  the torture that coercive psychiatric interventions entail, in their effort to end that torture, is one of the ways in which we may thus progress.

Old Scapegoat New Scapegoat

Remember the old scapegoat, meet the new scapegoat. Funny thing, but they are the same. I mean by scapegoat people who have been through the mental health system; people who get dumped by their relatives, associates, neighbors, and just plain strangers into the loony trash bin.

I recently came across a petition calling for the  opening up of all closed State Mental Hospitals, and my first thought thereupon was thank heavens so many of them have been demolished. You’d think we had enough problems with the largest prison inmate population in the entire world. Do we really need an extra large mental patient population to boot?

An article encountered suggested “sick” people “helped” by St Elizabeth’s were now being “forced” back into their families and communities by the Community Mental Health Act of 1963, and that this was what was wrong in the nation today. I don’t know how the author could ignore the fact that people forced into St Elizabeth’s were now free to go back into their communities and to have families. I guess that was some kind of minor oversight, or inattention to detail,  on his part.

There is a fine line dividing the “sick” from the well, and this fine line is determined by so-called expert opinion. These so-called experts, in other words, are the people who have been trained to think they know which people should be scapegoats, and which people should be allowed to go about their merry way.

Mental hospitals are places where the functionary staff make all possible effort to kill the spirit of the people imprisoned therein. I think it no wonder that the poet Ezra Pound was held for treason for so many years at St Elizabeth’s. Mental hospitals may be the closest thing we’ve ever had to an Auschwitz in this country.

It is always inconvenient to remember that the NAZI’s rehearsed their Final Solution to what they saw as the Jewish problem on people deemed ‘useless eaters’, people in mental institutions, especially when you want to blame violence on people who go into, and people who have come out of, such institutions.

Mental institutions are not, and never will be, the solution to the violence perpetuated by a very few frustrated and failed individuals with a vengeful fury to unleash. Failure, frustration, and revenge are not pathological conditions. We’ve got a social problem, and we’d do well to look to the social causes of it for a real solution, a social solution. Emphasis on real.

We live in a world that some people find unbearable. Maybe we would do better to make a more livable world for everybody, all of the world’s inhabitants, without exception. We could work on caring more about our neighbors for a start. When you get a solitary individual declaring war on society at large–yen/yang–do you have a raving madman come out of seclusion, or an isolated terrorist without a terror network? Take a good long hard look in the mirror. It happens.

Scapegoat and monitor more people for alleged “mental illness”, deprive more people of their first and second amendment rights, excuse a lack of automatic weapon control measures because of the high rate of traffic accident fatalities ( The 2 wrongs make a right, or a “lesser” wrong, theory.), etc, etc., etc… None of these proposals address the real problem. Again, emphasis on real.

The ADHD Party Line

Some people have a hard time detecting crap. What kind of a dumb ass reading this “mental illness” drug company propaganda can take any of it seriously? Apparently there are a great many people who do get sucked into this lip sync mode. One distant and foreign brain to determine everything you do, think, or say can be pretty disturbing to people trained in independent thought, and thinking for oneself.

According to this blog post at PsychCentral, Breaking the Silence of ADHD Stigma, a “stigma” is attached to the attention deficit hyperactivity disorder label. This post starts out by stating that speaking up about this purported “stigma” attached to the ADHD label will help to alleviate it; the “stigma”, that is, not the postulated “disease”. I imagine they are expecting all the speakers to be saying the same thing. It goes onto explain about this “stigma”…

It’s also decreasing thanks to well-designed studies, said Stephanie Sarkis, Ph.D, a psychotherapist and author of several books on ADHD, including Adult ADD: A Guide for the Newly Diagnosed. “Research is showing more and more that ADHD is a true biological [and] genetic disorder,” she said.

Well, perhaps what we need are more well-designed studies showing that pigs can fly, or that up is down. The truth of the matter is that researchers are now talking epigenetic rather than merely of genetics. Epigenetic deals with the interaction of environment and genes. Hmmm, so EVERYTHING isn’t so biological after all.

According to the post, ADHD is neither a personality trait nor a weakness in character. ADHD is not a result of poor parenting. The authors seem to claim that to suggest that the ADHD “sufferer” has any sort of self-control whatsoever is to be “stigmatizing”.

If you want to see confusion at work, contrast their ADHD is not an excuse for drug taking ploy with the definition of disease mongering.

Adults with ADHD are misperceived as “drug-seeking,” seeking the diagnosis in order to supposedly get their hands on stimulants. As [psychotherapist Terry] Matlen corrected, many adults with ADHD actually forget to take their medication.

People labeled with ADHD aren’t, according to these professionals, lazy or less than ambitious, no, they have defective brains, and to suggest anything else is to attach a “stigma” to them.

We’re not talking about college students cramming for exams. We’re talking about children who behave in ways that disturb their elders, mostly parents and teachers.

Main Entry: disease-mongering
Part of Speech: n
Definition: efforts by a pharmaceutical company to create or exaggerate a malady for the purpose of increasing sales of a medication

This is your mental health professional. This is your mental health professional with a bottle of pills. This is the drug company that is pulling the strings on your mental health professional.

When these over zealous mental health professionals stop seeing the ADHD label, and start seeing the flesh and blood human being, maybe we will be beginning to see some progress. You can’t get much more prejudiced than some of these people are who see “stigma” everywhere they turn. I don’t think an inalterable brain defect is an improvement over a changeable situation. I feel the idea is used to sell drugs.

I think I can recognise the idealogy of idealogues when I see it, and these proponents of the ADHD label are idealogues in the same sense that members of the party in one party totalitarian regimes are idealogues. These people think talking about the issue a good thing so long as they are the only ones doing the talking. As soon as somebody comes along with something different to say, its time to call in the head of your censorship office. You know the excuse that is going to being given for censorship already, don’t you? What you have to say is “stigmatizing”, and therefore, you have to be silenced.

The Human Being As An Association of Genes

One article in Science Daily happened to catch my eye of late, Two Genes Do Not Make a Voter. The implication, apparently dispelled, was that a couple of genes, or four, or five, could determine a specific human behaviorial trait.

They use as an example a 2008 study by James H. Fowler and Christopher T. Dawes of the University of California, San Diego which claimed that two genes predict voter turnout. Charney and English demonstrate that when certain errors in the original study are corrected — errors common to many gene association studies — there is no longer any association between these genes and voter turnout.

Emphasis added.

If you keep reading you will find that these genes have been credited with having a great many unfounded attributes. Sloth on the part of citizens is not the only negative quality, vice is still too strong a word to use in this instance, some researchers would find inherited.

Charney and English also document how the same two genes that Fowler and Dawes claimed would predict voter turnout are also said to predict, according to other recently published studies, alcoholism, Alzheimer’s disease, anorexia nervosa, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism, depression, epilepsy, extraversion, insomnia, migraines, narcolepsy, obesity, obsessive compulsive disorder, panic disorder, Parkinson’s disease, postpartum depression, restless legs syndrome, premature ejaculation, schizophrenia, smoking, success by professional Wall Street traders, sudden infant death syndrome, suicide, Tourette syndrome, and several hundred other behaviors. They point to a number of studies that attempted to confirm these findings and could not.

Hmmm, I wonder how “extraversion” and “success by” “Wall Street traders” got thrown in there? I think it amusing how these are the exceptions that prove the rule. Our researchers don’t tend to be searching for success genes, but rather they tend to be looking for failure genes instead. I wonder why this is? I don’t get the impression that they’ve managed to remove many of these failure genes from the human gene pool yet.

“There is a growing consensus that complex traits that are heritable are influenced by differences in thousands of genes interacting with each other, with the epigenome (which regulates gene expressivity), and with the environment in complex ways,” Charney said. “The idea that one or two genes could predict something like voting behavior or partisanship violates all that we now know about the complex relationship between genes and traits.”

So much for the hunt for the non-voter gene. I imagine that would be the first step in determining which genes vote republican, which genes vote democrat, and which maverick genes out there happen to vote independent. Now what arrangement of thousands of genes, plus interactions, cause people to avoid the voting booth, and what arrangement of thousands of genes cause certain people to receive a “mental illness” label.

This kind of senseless endeavor could go on for a spell. Do you have forever? If you don’t know, flip a coin, and call the side you favor forever. The other side of the coin, of course, you can call never.

Psychiatric labeling, prejudice, and the media

The Ottawa Citizen has a story on a study conducted by the Mental Health Commission of Canada. There are good things and bad things to say about this study. A bad thing was the consistent use of the word “stigma”. People who have experienced the mental health system from the inside are not tattooed, or marked, the way Jews were required to wear yellow stars during the German Third Reich. The study bore the headline, ‘Lazy’ media stigmatize mentally ill. The claim that the media has created a slanderous spin is perhaps a better way to put it in this instance.

“Danger, violence and criminality were direct themes in 39 per cent of newspaper articles, and in only 17 cent was recovery (or) rehabilitation a significant theme. Shortage of resources and poor quality of care was discussed in only 28 per cent of newspaper articles, even though these are perennial problems.”

Danger violence criminality themes 39%
Recovery or Rehabilitation theme 17 %
Shortage of resources and inferior quality 28 %

People in the mental health system often end up there because they would get a low score on a charisma or popularity test anyway. Like jews, and other minority groups, they serve as a convenient scapegoat. Seeing as “mental illness” labels come between people, and the opportunities they might have previously seen in the world, I prefer to approach the matter in terms of prejudice and discrimination. Law enforcement officers do racial profiling targeting African Americans, likewise, here you’ve got the news media aiding and abetting in a similar type of profiling directed at people labeled “mentally ill”.

The analysis was based on 8,838 articles published between 2005 and 2010 that mentioned any of the terms “mental health,” “mental illness,” “schizophrenia” and “schizophrenic.”

The “schizophrenia” label is generally at the bottom of the mental health salvageable people list status-wise. Mood swing disorders, personality disorders, every other sort of label is seen as less severe, and more likely to respond to treatment than psychosis. This, in some measure, is due to the drugs used to treat the label. Long term use of neuroleptic drugs, the drugs used on schizophrenia, can exasperate the symptoms of schizophrenia, and are associated with overall cognitive decline.

[Researcher Rob] Whitley said 12 per cent took an optimistic or positive tone about mental health, while 29 per cent were “directly stigmatizing.” Fully 84 per cent did not quote a person with a mental illness, and 74 per cent did not quote an expert.

Optimistic or positive tone 12 %
Prejudicial and denigrating 29 %
Patient/ex-patient voice absent 84 %
Other expert voice absent 74 %

The media is owned by big money and corporate interests. It should not come as all too much of a surprise that the mass media demands a scapegoat. The mental patient has traditionally served as a scapegoat. It was no accident that NAZI Germany prepared for exterminating the Jews with eugenic policies aimed at exterminating the so-called “feeble minded”, and what were then termed “useless eaters”.

Sensationalism, a common phenomenon in media coverage, was contrasted with “advocacy journalism” that sought to bring the matter of “mental illness” labels to the attention of the general public.

The article concludes blaming the media on public stinginess, and suggesting that if the media claimed people in the system could recover, the public would be more responsive.

As corporate controlled media sources are always going to be prejudicial, it is important for people who have known the psychiatric system from the inside to use the internet for generating their own media. It is also important for mental patients and former mental patients to ally themselves with other movements for social justice and systemic change. Only by facing this prejudice head on, and by challenging corporate control of the media, are mental health consumers, psychiatric survivors, and former mental patients likely to make much of a dent on the long standing tradition of prejudice and discrimination that they are still enduring in the present day.

Mental Health Recovery And Civil Rights

If people can and do recover from serious “mental illnesses”, why would “stigma” be much of an issue? “Stigma” is mostly an issue with people who believe that complete recovery is rare to non-existent. Countering “stigma” is a matter for people who believe people in mental health treatment need some kind of special consideration, specifically because they are thought to be incapable of fully recovering their mental and emotional constitutional stability.

The notion of “stigma” involves a belief that people in mental health treatment are tainted, that they are broken, that they are damaged goods, that they are, as the word translates literally, marked for disgrace. In point of fact, there doesn’t tend to be any sort of skin rash that separates a person labeled “mentally ill” from the rest of humanity. This idea that one is engaged in an effort to erase “stigma” tends to have an effect opposite to the intention. What I am saying here is that this focus on “stigma” is usually a way of separating the ‘disturbed’ from society at large rather than of seeing him or her as a human being like all other human beings, and thus a member of that society.

The real issue for people who have experienced the mental health system, and particularly for people who have endured forced treatment, is a matter of prejudice and discrimination. Institutionalization disrupts the life process in almost all of its dimensions. People who are institutionalized lose precious time, jobs, friends, and property. They are not compensated one nickle for the time, jobs, friends, and property that institutionalization takes away from them. In fact, they are expected to pay for the disruption of institutionalization, often forced and entirely unwanted, that causes this loss. This in itself is indicative of the prejudice directed against this segment of the population. We may call this prejudice “stigma”, but it is not “stigma” , it is prejudice.

Discrimination, and this lack of compensation, are in fact among the reasons many people within the mental health system are seen as unrecoverable. The mental health system fosters dependence, and this dependence is, in large measure, seen as pathological on the recipient’s part. The problem is situational. People within the system have this ‘damned if you do, damned if you don’t’ feeling. What were we saying about disgrace? People in treatment are still segregated from the community at large within what has been termed the mental health ghetto. This mental health ghetto, much like the inner city ghetto, much like the Warsaw ghetto, is where we’ve made life harder for the inhabitants than it is for everybody else.

People, especially unfortunate people, need chances. They don’t just need second chances. They need third, fourth, and fifth chances as well. In any land of opportunity there should be an abundance of chances, that is, there should be more rather than fewer of these chances. Chance is opportunity. Good fortunes are what unfortunate people lack. The “sickness”, if there is any, bears a social element. If the “sickness” is a matter of locking people out from the realm of fortune, then cure would be a matter of repossessing that key. It is this key to situational change, that is, to community re-integration, that is the real prognosticator, and this key as of yet still tends to be kept in stingy, or prejudicial, hands.

The erasing “stigma” notion comes from the idea that all you will need to do to get a better world is to change the hearts and minds of people. Pragmatists and realists know better. In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.” If the situation for people impacted by the mental health system has changed at all, it has changed because laws have changed. These changes have occurred because we are engaged in our own civil rights struggle, and this civil rights struggle is still far from over.

Abortion Sterilization Decision Overturned In Massachusetts

Lest anybody think eugenics a completely dead issue, a Massachusetts appeals court just overturned a Judges abortion and sterilization order for a woman 5 months pregnant and labeled schizophrenic. The story was reported in The Boston Globe under the headlines Court strikes decision for mentally ill woman’s abortion.

Unbidden, the judge further directed that the 32-year-old woman be sterilized “to avoid this painful situation from recurring in the future.’’

The appeals court judge struck down this decision in what The Globe described as “unusually harsh terms.”

The personal decision whether to bear or beget a child is a right so fundamental that it must be extended to all persons, including those who are incompetent,’’ the opinion stated, citing a 1982 ruling by the state’s Supreme Judicial Court.

The woman, judged ‘incompetent’, had had a child previously, and she had undergone an abortion as well.  She said she was very Catholic, and she would not consent to such a procedure.

Regarding the frequency of such court orders…

“My guess is it happens a lot more than we know,’’ he [Daniel Pollack, professor, Yeshiva University] said.

The records from this case have been sealed.

Thankfully the Appellate Court recognised, in this instance, when a Judge’s ruling had been way out of bounds.

A Fighter For The Better Use Of Language

One of the voices most vehement in his opposition to the use of the word “stigma”, when it comes to dealing with people who have experienced the mental health system first hand, is that of Harold A. Maio. It was, therefore, refreshing to see his words in print featured in an opinion piece on the United Kingdom’s Guardian, headed aptly, We no longer talk about ‘the’ Jews. So why do we talk about ‘the’ mentally ill?

Presently popular worldwide is “the” mentally ill, a replica of “the” Jews. It is seldom recognised. In 2008 all nine US supreme court justices agreed “the” mentally ill existed. I shuddered; the US went silent. The entire country went dark and did not notice. An alley expression had reached the height of the US supreme court and journalism fell silent, neither seeing it, nor wanting to. Not just in the US, but worldwide. It is one of the prejudices I track worldwide on the net. I respond to each example.

If you follow stories in the media where the word “stigma” comes up in reference to people who have known mental health treatment, you will often find Harold Maio has written a sharply critical letter to the editor. It would certainly be helpful if more people took the time to chastise editors and journalists for their shortcomings in this fashion, and for this shortcoming in particular.

I trace one other prejudice on the net: “stigma”. It is closely related to the first. Once one has diminished a group to a “the”, one then claims for them a “stigma”, a “they”, a difference, eventually a deficiency. Establishing an “us” is one of the primary tools of prejudice, resulting in a “them”.

I’ve never liked the word “stigma” used in such instances either seeing it as a highly prejudicial word. As it means “a mark of disgrace” you start with a perceptual problem, you’ve identified the members of this set of individuals as set apart somehow from the rest of the population. In such instances, it becomes easier to ignore the common humanity that unites people, and it becomes harder to come to the conclusion that we are them, too, and they are us.

When I objected to the use of this word during a teleconference of psychiatric survivors and mental health consumers I was happy to find that most of those at the event were in agreement with my objection. They had a different reason for objecting though, and their reason was that it was a term they felt had been co-opted by people who didn’t share their aims and objectives. This word that might once have been their word at one time, was no longer seen as their word. It had become then, for these people who had been through the mental health system, a word that was used by a “them” against the “us” they represented.

The outcome of forced mental health treatment is usually not a very good one. The damage that is done to one is financial and social as well as possibly emotional. This socio-economic double whammy illustrates that the problem is systemic. While ex-slaves were promised 40 acres and a mule before the end of the American civil war, a promise the government renigged on, mental health patients are promised next to nothing on discharge from an institution.

Ignorance of the disruption that involuntary treatment entails is itself an example of prejudice in my view. Let us return to the example of propertyless ex-slaves, one thing they could count on was poverty. The predicament most recently discharged mental patients find themselves facing is similar. Add to this precarious state, just as with black people in this country, you have a group of people facing a great deal of prejudice. This prejudice contributes to making efforts to reenter the fold, so to speak, and move upward such a challenging, often self-defeating, undertaking.

I haven’t read it suggested that there is a “stigma” attached to mental health. People labeled “mentally ill” have recovered from the label. This word “stigma” is often used to refer to the way people treat people for whom recovery is thought to be beyond reach. This presumption, in itself, is an example of prejudice. There is a great deal of fatalism at work in this perspective. It is my feeling that when a person has received a psychiatric label, improvement should be the expectation. Resignation is, all too often, the tact encouraged by professionals who have failed their clientelle, and by a system that is too often based on managing symptoms rather than recovering stability.

North Carolina Considers Compensating Victims Of Eugenics

Legislators in North Carolina are considering compensation for victims of eugenics. This would be a bigger step towards achieving some kind of justice for the people who endured this practice than I’ve seen before. In Virginia I remember the present Senator Mark Warner, when he was the state’s governor, issued a public apology for the practice. I imagine that a public apology of that sort could be put to better use as toilet paper.

The Charlotte Observer has a story on efforts underway to find still living eugenics victims, N.C. eugenics survivors prove elusive.

State officials say they believe at least 1,500 of the women, girls, boys and men sterilized under state authority from 1929 to 1974 are still alive.

One year into a 3 year quest for still living sterilization abuse victims, and only 34 such victims to date have been found. Nonetheless, some of those survivors are reported to be very vocal in expressing their outrage.

The Eugenics Board of North Carolina – one of many similar boards across the country – authorized sterilization of roughly 7,600 North Carolinians. Mecklenburg County did the most in the state, by far. From 1946 to 1968, when the state kept its most detailed records, 485 people in Mecklenburg were sterilized through the eugenics board. Gaston County was third, with 161.

3 categories of people were targeted for sterilization by the state, people labeled with “mental illness”, people with epilepsy, and people deemed “feeble minded”.

North Carolina is the first state to seriously consider compensating survivors. In March, [Govenor Bev] Perdue created a five-person task force to figure out possible cash payments for people sterilized under the eugenics board. The task force has met four times but hasn’t settled on an amount; the number it has talked about most is $20,000 per victim. But nothing’s final, and the task force won’t make an official recommendation until February.

This compensation would be small potatoes, and as one observer complained, way too small. A eugenics victim in Canada sued for $740,000. In another case, 1000 Canadian victims received $142,000,000. Small as it would be, this compensation would still represent an great improvement over no official acknowledgment of wrong doing at all and continued state neglect.

State Representative Larry Womble of Winston-Salem has introduced a bill into the state legislature asking for $20,000 for every living victim found of North Carolina’s sterilization practices.

It must be remembered that North Carolina wasn’t alone in sterilizing people in the name of eugenics. I hope the state does succeed in compensating its victims, and I hope that such an action will set a precedent that other states can follow. Given any other course of action, in this instance, and justice still waits to be served.