Reflecting Back on a Campaign to Stop Forced Outpatient ECT


One of the most amazing activist campaigns I have been involved in during my 40 years of protest for human rights in the mental health system, was the effort to stop the involuntary electroshock of Ray Sandford of Minnesota. 

Incredibly, back in 2008, he was getting forced shock every Wednesday morning on an outpatient basis. That is right; every week in his group home out in the community, he was picked up and brought to a local hospital for electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) through his brain, against his will, with a court order. 

Ray Sanford was receiving weekly court-ordered, outpatient involuntary electroshocks, even though he was living peacefully in his group home out in the community. In October 2008, Ray called the MindFreedom office, and they started his international campaign that reached thousands, and won!
Ray Sanford was receiving weekly court-ordered, outpatient involuntary electroshocks, even though he was living peacefully in his group home out in the community. In October 2008, Ray called the MindFreedom office, and they started his international campaign that reached thousands, and won!

Ray reached MindFreedom in the Fall of 2008, and an international human rights campaign began for him.

Below, you will see an article by psychiatric survivor activist Loretta Wilson looking back on this action six years ago, which involved thousands of people speaking out together to help and support Ray. It took longer than I thought, but Ray won!

Loretta often talks on the telephone with Ray, and reports on his current needs. Today, as an oppressed person who lives in a group home, Ray should have a better life. Six years ago, his psychiatrist, guardian, lawyer, group home, and many other authorities worked together for his forced electroshock. It is to Ray’s credit that somehow he phoned us at the MindFreedom office and kicked off this historic movement victory. 

Back then, Ray’s psychiatrist said that he had to have forced electroshock or he would not survive. Six years later we can now reliably say that this psychiatrist was wrong!

During his forced electroshock, I remember how a bunch of us flew in to Minnesota and reached a lot of people there about Ray. Thanks, Loretta, for keeping in touch with Ray and remembering this great victory.

Some activists dismiss electroshock as an issue for campaigns, because the vast majority of psychiatric treatment is of course with drugs. But as long as even one person is subject to forced electroshock, especially with involuntary outpatient commitment, we are all at risk. In an often-divided movement, opposing forced electroshock unites almost everybody, along with most people on the left and the right in the general public.

At this time, Congressperson Tim Murphy (R-PA) is pushing for his bill for far more involuntary outpatient procedures in the USA, and an attorney has confirmed with me that Rep. Murphy’s bill does not exclude forced electroshock in the community of people living peacefully at home. When the public discovers that his bill would allow more involuntary electroshock of peaceful, law-abiding citizens in their own homes, there will be general outrage. Talk about out-of-control big government over-reach!

Rep. Murphy, if your bill ever passes, how many more Americans will get forced outpatient electroshock, as Ray did?

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January 30, 2015

Looking Back on the Ray Sandford Campaign to Stop His Forced Outpatient Electroshock

by Loretta Wilson

It was sometime in mid-2007 when I began to awaken from a long winter of psychiatric intervention, 21 years to be exact. The “Stress Unit,”as it was called, was an all too familiar term. Today I understand why it’s called a “stress unit”!

I would like to move into the reason for writing this article. After insisting my doctor help me with the taper-down from all the prescribed psych drugs and my awareness became apparent I began to search the Internet hoping to learn why so much of my life was missing. I came across the MindFreedon, International web page and a whole new world opened up to me. It didn’t take long for me to realize I wasn’t alone, others had had similar experiences with psychiatric intervention.

Then I saw the alert about Ray Sandford and information about the campaign that was in progress. I had to get involved. They can’t keep doing that to Ray! Ray had been forced to receive electroconvulsive therapy through a court order. How can it be that a judge can sit on a bench and order something so harmful as ECT. How could it be that a judge could order such a thing having no medical expertise? I joined the campaign and began to send e-mails, write letters and make phone calls in behalf of Ray Sandford.

The day I learned the campaign had been successful, overwhelming joy filled my heart and hope was born anew! Hope, something that had been denied me by the psychiatric community.

Several years have passed since the campaign came to a close in victory and a friends list was established through MindFreedom International. I’m very happy to report that Ray Sandford is alive a well. Personally I think he deserves more than the sedentary life he is required to live as one of the residents of the group home located in St. Paul, Minnesota. Ray has implied that there is very little activity and almost no stimulation offered by the group home managers for Ray and the gentlemen who reside in the group home with him.

Ray calls me often to ask that I pray for his sleep. He talks about walking to Arby’s sandwich shop for exercise when the weather permits. He really likes going to church but often has no way to get there.

Ray loves Reuben sandwiches, receiving mail and keeping in touch by phone. When I send postcards to Ray I always try to include postage so that he doesn’t have to concern himself with such details. Ray also likes to sing and has an awesome voice. He will take time to pray on the spot if you mention that you aren’t feeling too good.

David Oaks (psychiatric survivor, activist, and former director of MindFreedom), I think you are Ray’s hero, he will never forget you. Ray said to tell you he really appreciates all that you did for him. He remembers the many times the two of you spent time on the phone (short as they were) talking about the victories that were obtained through the campaign to stop forced ECT on Ray’s behalf. Ray mentioned his concern for your voice being disabled; I’m not sure he understands fully what happened.

I believe Ray would love to know that people are praying for him now, just as they fought for him back in 2008 to 2009. Yep, we are approaching April 15, 2015, and six years post ECT for Ray Sandford, how awesome is that!

I’ve copied and pasted some of the important dates about the Ray campaign and have included the web site so that people can read the information in its entirety.


Information copied and pasted into this document from MindFreedom International web site:

A gateway in general about his campaign can be found here:
On 27 October 2008, Ray Sandford first phoned up the MindFreedom office. He had asked his local library about organizations that support human rights in mental health. The reference librarian gave him MindFreedom’s phone number.

Ray’s last forced electroshock was on USA tax day, 15 April 2009.

By coincidence the 15th of April was also the date of the very first forced electroshock, back in 1938 in Italy, when the subject cried out:

“Non una seconda! Mortifiere!” which means in Italian, “Not another! It’s deadly!”

On 13 May 2009, Ray was escorted all the way to a hospital bed. He was prepped for another forced electroshock. Because of outrage, hospital authorities cancelled Ray’s shock at the last second, and he was sent home.

More victories quickly followed.

Ray’s psychiatrist quit because he said his insurance company was concerned about all the public attention. MindFreedom helped Ray find a new psychiatrist supportive of Ray’s human rights.

Ray’s family joined in the campaign. MindFreedom organized a YouTube video with Ray and his Mom, begging for the shock to end. Ray’s guardians, an agency under the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), tried to stop the video from going public, but it got ought.

Ray’s family found a better attorney. Ray found great pleasure in firing his ineffective court-appointed attorney.

Several concerned Minnesota agencies formed an “ECT Work Group” to change the law in Minnesota. Two MindFreedom representatives served on the committee, but asked for more than just minor reform.


Ray successfully replaced his general guardians who had supported his forced electroshock.

One of Ray’s new guardians, Daryl Trones, announced:

“MindFreedom has just won a substantial victory! … I received an ‘Acceptance of Appointment” from Ramsey County District Court regarding the changing of guardianship for Ray Sandford. Ray no longer will be subject to ECT treatments. The powers of Successor Guardianship include the power to ‘withhold consent for treatment of service, including neuroleptic / psychotropic medications,’ under Minnesota Statute 524.5-314.”

Daryl, Ray and his family want to thank all of Ray’s many supporters.

Said Daryl, “My appreciation to all the MindFreedom members and volunteers and especially to David Oaks who orchestrated requisite forces and passions to pull Ray Sandford from harm’s way. MindFreedom now has a successful case study outlining the necessary steps to extricate persons subject to forced electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). Congratulation to MindFreedom Staff and Members and most of all to Ray Sandford who … was just a single, small voice in the face of a medical giant.”

Celebrate the Ray Campaign Success! 

Remember, on April 15, 2015 Ray will celebrate year number six without forced ECT. If you would like to congratulate Ray on his continued success through the MindFreedom fight that was fought for freedom from forced shock, Ray loves to receive snail mail:

Ray Sandford
1518 Scheffer Ave.
St. Paul, Minnesota 55116 USA
Born January 4, 1954

I would like to take this opportunity to express my appreciation to David Oaks and to MindFreedom International. It was through MindFreedom International that I began to regain the strength that would be required to obtain my own freedom.


Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.


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  1. It is important for us to look back on victories like these, Another similar victory that David doesn’t mention here is the historic vote in Berkeley, California to ban shock treatment there. That could not have happened either without David’s hard work.

    David also mentions another very important point that needs to be talked about: “Some activists dismiss electroshock as an issue for campaigns, because the vast majority of psychiatric treatment is of course with
    drugs. ” That is true, that many more people are drugged than shocked. But strategically, when we fight electroshock, we are attacking psychiatric power at one of its weakest points. This is very important if we think carefully about long term strategy.

    I don’t think most people right now see psychiatric drugs as a bad thing. But shock treatment is not something that many people support. When we fight it, and the psychiatric profession defends it, they discredit themselves. And this reduces the prestige and power that they have, which lies behind all of the abuses of psychiatry. When people stop perceiving psychiatrists as godlike figures, they will start to take a closer look at every horror that the profession promotes.

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    • I was convinced, having read the “One flew over the coockoo’s nest” and watched the movie as a kid that this was a thing of the dark and happily forgotten past. Imagine my shock (pun unintended) when I’ve learnt that it is not only still being done to people but even done involuntarily. The horrors of this world are such that I miss the days when I lived in blissful ignorance.

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  2. Here in Australia, involuntary ECT is routinely approved by the tribunals that are supposed to regulate its use. In Queensland, this is the Mental Health Review Tribunal (MHRT) which approves more than 95% of applications for ECT by the hospitals.

    The MHRT’s 2011 Annual Report presents a “case study”, which they describe as “Vera’s Story”, providing an example of the supposed “justice” delivered by the MHRT in the case of a 45 year-old woman who was “very strongly against ECT”, saying that previous ECT had brought on the worst depression of her life.

    According to the MHRT’s presentation of her story, she was a loving and devoted mother of two children aged 8 and 11 and had been diagnosed with Bipolar Affective Disorder (with the unfortunate acronym of BAD) when she was 20. She had decided to stop her medication and was said to be having a “relapse”. The hospital was saying that she was manic and she was being kept in the locked ward (what the MHRT called the “intensive care unit”). This was doubtless to stop her from escaping – the predominant concern of the hospital staff.

    According to this case study, Vera brought with her a lawyer and an “allied person” named Alison to the tribunal. The lawyer merely argued that Vera should be involved in any decisions about treatment and there were less invasive ways to treat her than ECT. Alison, the “allied person” said that Vera was actually very depressed, but wouldn’t admit to the doctors for fear that she wouldn’t be able to see her children (a very reasonable fear).

    The tribunal reported that Vera had “pressure of speech” and was “not able to logically follow through with answers to questions”. This is, of course a classical sign of mania as described in psychiatric texts such as the DSM and ICD, but pressure of speech can also occur through anxiety and Vera had every reason to be anxious. The diagnosis of “mania” requires more than pressure of speech – it is primarily an abnormality of mood – the diagnosis can be made on the basis of an elevated, expansive or irritable mood. Here, Vera’s friend was saying her mood was the opposite of elevated, as would be expected from her circumstances and the imminent threat of ECT. Her pressure of speech is much more likely to reflect anxiety than an “elevated, expansive or irritable mood”.

    What’s wrong with an elevated or expansive mood, anyway? According to the MHRT, such a mood, untreated, can lead to “harmful neurological consequences”. Twice in this case study this claim is made – that an untreated manic episode can lead to harmful neurological consequences – brain damage in other words. Incongruously, the MHRT is deciding, routinely, to authorise treatments that are KNOWN to cause brain damage, supposedly to prevent the brain damage that comes from untreated “mania”. Mania can be diagnosed on the basis of an elevated mood for more than week! How good is ones mood allowed to be?

    The MHRT presents this case as an example of their decision-making process. The tribunal determined that “Vera’s mental state at the time prevented her from discussing and understanding the ECT to the extent that she could weigh up the advantages and disadvantages of the treatment as opposed to oral medication.”

    Siding with the hospital doctors, the tribunal decided that “ECT was the most appropriate treatment in the circumstances having regard to Vera’s clinical condition and treatment history” (the claim by the hospital that ECT had made her “better” in the past, while Vera had said it had made her worse). Approval was given for an acute course of up to 12 treatments with assessments of her mental state after each course, over a 90 day period”.

    This may be a fictionalized case study, but the details ring true as a real woman who came up against the Tribunal. Doubtless her name wasn’t Vera, but there are many people, each with stories to tell of being abused by the psychiatric system in which they are “involuntary patients”.

    Involuntary Treatment Orders (ITOs) can be extended indefinitely with 6-monthly reviews. In 2014, of 7700 ITOs that were reviewed, 7483 were confirmed and 217 were revoked. That’s 2.8% success rate for those trying to escape from the systematic assaults of psychiatry.

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  3. I don’t know what is worse, that Tim Murphy is my congressman or that he has 30 years experience as a Psychologist.

    It all comes down to one simple fact. People do NOT have rights, only COMPANIES do. This is yet another example of how the government wants to control us by any means possible.

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  4. Such brave, important work you have done on this, David Oaks!!! Remember when we were at a conference ages ago, and the late, dear Leonard Roy Frank urged the audience when he gave a talk — since he had been subjected to electroshock, and the effects on him and many others had been so devastating — never to call it “ECT” because the “T” stands for “therapy”? So I always call it “electroshock” instead.

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  5. The horror stories continue, what a chilling article on EC-C electroconvulsive-conditioning, in no sense of reality could this be considered therapy, useful, good for a patient or society.

    What humans do as cognitive geniuses is monstrously unthinkable, and is seriously questioned as a possible attempt to conceal previous abuses on a patient where incompetence has caused more harm.

    The EC-C is the solution to clear the prolonged mistakes made in long term cases, removing any evidence of severe incompetence; the Dr’s fail-safe protocol.

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