Rep. Tim Murphy May Be in Violation of Professional Psychological Ethics & the Law

Jasenn Zaejian, PhD
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I’ve been noticing the recent media topics on Congressman Tim Murphy after he advanced his euphemistically titled Helping Families Mental Health Crisis act, HR 2646. Prior to that I had little or no interest in his political activities. I saw him as just another politician, using whatever he could to promote his reëlection. Having conducted mental health research on various trends, I understood the Murphy bill to be another in a long line of false flags attempting to conflate mental illness with violence. For years, this tactic has been used by the National Alliance For Mentally Ill (NAMI) and the Treatment Advocacy Center (TAC) to justify a host of legislation and legal sanctions aimed at depriving people with diagnoses — most of which have been proven to be mere matters of opinion, not backed by science — of their constitutionally protected freedoms.

E. Fuller Torrey, the psychiatrist who, for decades, has been promoting the medication of most who carry a diagnosis of mental illness, cofounded NAMI and TAC — apparently to promote his non-research based, opinionated and coercive agenda. He has publicly lauded the Murphy bill. His associate, DJ Jaffe, formerly employed by an ad agency, stated:

“… From a marketing perspective, it may be necessary to capitalize on the fear of violence to get the law [outpatient commitment legislation] passed.”(1)

When Senator Grassley’s committee exposed NAMI for taking covert funds from the pharmaceutical industry,(2) Torrey and his minions dissociated themselves from NAMI and formed TAC.

The psychiatrist Thomas Szasz wrote, in his book Coercion as Cure: A Critical History of Psychiatry,

“Torrey’s love affair with psychiatric coercion proved to be too much even for the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill.”(4)

The Murphy bill, as written, sounds suspiciously like Torrey’s party line, based on misinterpreted scientific research. Murphy has been reportedly making “false claims” conflating mental illness with violence to promote his bill.

Research beginning in the 1960’s after the US Supreme Court case of Baxstrom v. Herold, (1966)(5) established that mental illness was not positively correlated with violence. In fact numerous studies yielded a negative correlation between mental illness and violence. Following the Baxstrom decision, Matteawan State Hospital housing the “criminally insane” was closed down.  Approximately 1000 “criminally insane” patients were transferred from the secure forensic hospital to civil hospitals. A six year follow-up study by Steadman and Cocozza (1978) of these “dangerously mentally ill” or “criminally insane” patients concluded that those judged as mentally ill and dangerous do not necessarily commit further violent crimes. In fact, in the follow-up of the  criminally insane” patients who were released to a civil hospital, only 2.7%  (26 patients) committed actions necessitating them to be transferred back to the secure hospital. One third of this group (circa 300) remained in the community, free from violence, 14 were deceased, less than 1% were in jail and/or prison, the remainder were housed in the non-secure civil hospital.  Since then other studies resulted in similar conclusions.(6) New York State dropped the classification of “criminally insane” after Baxstrom.

I am a retired psychologist, previously licensed in 3 states, but not licensed in Pennsylvania. As a result of becoming increasingly concerned about Murphy’s false  public statements conflating mental illness with violence, a few weeks ago I contacted the Pennsylvania Psychology Licensing Board and formally requested the implementation of a State ethics investigation of Representative Tim Murphy, Ph.D.

As a result of  violations of the law as alleged in the media reports in the links below, and for violations of APA ethics, Congressman Tim Murphy, licensed as a psychologist in Pennsylvania, appears to be in violation of professional ethics as he has been distorting research on mental illness and violence in his presentations to the public. He has been quoted as knowingly conflating mental illness with violence so as to promote the passage of his bill, HR 2646.

Evidence of Dr. Murphy’s subtle conflation of mental illness with violence can be seen in the following videos:

Murphy’s public behavior appears to be in violation of the American Psychological Association’s ethical principles for a licensed psychologist by knowingly inaccurately promoting research — and false conclusions — as well as with other principles and sections, as noted below:

2.04: Basis for Scientific and Professional Judgment.

Dr. Murphy is exploiting the relatively small number of violent incidents, as reported in the media, to support his bill in numerous media interviews. He therefore represents to the public a picture that is in contradistinction to the scientific evidence.

3.03: Other harassment

In promoting the false belief of the relationship between violence and mental illness, Dr. Murphy is creating a climate potentially leading towards public and government harassment of anyone who appears to be odd or mentally ill, in society. He is harassing, as a psychologist, by promoting the stigma that has falsely existed for many years.

3.04: Avoiding Harm

While his statements are always couched in terms of assisting families and the mentally ill, by falsely conflating mental illness with violence, on the public stage, Dr. Murphy is creating the foundation for serious harm to the mentally ill and disabled, from society and from the police.

3.08: Exploitation

By conflating mental illness in public pronouncements to promote his bill, HR2646, he is exploiting the mentally ill by promoting falsehoods about mental illness data.

Section 5 is clearly violated by his deceptive statements on conflating mental illness with violence:

5.01 Avoidance of False or Deceptive Statements

(a) Public statements include but are not limited to paid or unpaid advertising, product endorsements, grant applications, licensing applications, other credentialing applications, brochures, printed matter, directory listings, personal resumes or curricula vitae or comments for use in media such as print or electronic transmission, statements in legal proceedings, lectures and public oral presentations and published materials. Psychologists do not knowingly make public statements that are false, deceptive or fraudulent concerning their research, practice or other work activities or those of persons or organizations with which they are affiliated.

As mentioned, he has acknowledged to at least one psychiatrist, that he is aware of his false conflation of mental illness with violence, to promote the passage of his bill.

(b) Psychologists do not make false, deceptive or fraudulent statements concerning (1) their training, experience or competence; (2) their academic degrees; (3) their credentials; (4) their institutional or association affiliations; (5) their services; (6) the scientific or clinical basis for or results or degree of success of, their services; (7) their fees; or (8) their publications or research findings.

8.10 Reporting Research Results

(a) Psychologists do not fabricate data.

Dr. Murphy, in his various public statements presented false or fabricated statements conflating mental illness with violence. He has admitted this to a psychiatrist who questioned him.

The Macarthur Violence Risk Assessment Study,(7) and others have demonstrated no positive relationship between mental illness and violence. However, the singular factor of substance abuse is relevant. This conclusion was drawn from a study completed in the state in which Dr. Murphy is licensed.

A summary of the Macarthur study by the Harvard Mental Health Letter, follows:

“The study found that 31% of people who had both a substance abuse disorder and a psychiatric disorder (a “dual diagnosis”) committed at least one act of violence in a year, compared with 18% of people with a psychiatric disorder alone. This confirmed other research that substance abuse is a key contributor to violent behavior. But when the investigators probed further, comparing rates of violence in one area in Pittsburgh in order to control for environmental factors as well as substance use, they found no significant difference in the rates of violence among people with mental illness and other people living in the same neighborhood. In other words, after controlling for substance use, rates of violence reported in the study may reflect factors common to a particular neighborhood rather than the symptoms of a psychiatric disorder.”(8)

In addition, Dr. Murphy has been accused of potentially unethical (as a psychologist), violations of Federal law and criminal activity in directing his staff to perform illegal campaign work on government time with threats to lose their jobs if they do not cooperate is documented in the following report. He has been under investigation by the department of justice for these matters. Scroll down to page 117 on this Citizens for Ethics(9) link to read the complete report on Murphy’s alleged transgressions. This was originally reported in an October 28, 2006 news article on page A-1 of the Pittsburg Post Gazette.

That Murphy consistently represents himself as a psychologist in numerous media interviews and ignores anyone who disagrees with his opinions casts a negative light on the profession of psychology, which does a disservice to the majority of psychologists who rigidly adhere to APA ethics. As a former practicing clinical psychologist, I find Congressman and psychologist Murphy’s actions deplorable, a disgrace to the profession, a violation of the ethical principles that guides psychologists in their duties, and an attempt to use his credentials as a psychologist to manipulate the public and Congress to believe obviously false statements.

Please contact the Pennsylvania psychology licensing board at: http://www.dos.pa.gov/ProfessionalLicensing/BoardsCommissions/Psychology/Pages/default.aspx
to express your opinion of Murphy’s behavior as a psychologist. Anyone can complain if they believe a psychologist committed  a potential ethics violation.  The Board, as in most states, likely has a legal obligation to investigate and make a determination. Scroll down the page to the CONTACT information, including the Board’s email address in the right hand column.

* * * * *

References:

  1. Jaffe, DJ. End Stigma by Ending Violence. (http://schizophrenia.com/family/stigma.html). Accessed November 29, 2015
  2. Grassley works for disclosure of drug company payments to medical groups. (http://www.grassley.senate.gov/news/news-releases/grassley-works-disclosure-drug-company-payments-medical-groups). December 8, 2009. Accessed November 29, 2015
  3. Torrey, E. Fuller. A bipartisan bill in the House would substantially reduce the harm it causes.  (http://www.nationalreview.com/article/378750/addressing-serious-mental-illness-e-fuller-torrey). May 26, 2014. Accessed November 29, 2015
  4. Szasz, Thomas. Coercion as Cure: A Critical History of Psychiatry. Transaction Publishers. December 31, 2011
  5. U.S. Supreme Court. Baxstrom v. Herold, 383 U.S. 107 (1966).
    (https://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/383/107/case.html). Accessed November 29, 2015
  6. Teplin, L., Abram, K., McClelland, G., Does Psychiatric Disorder Predict Violent Crime Among Released Jail Detainees? American Psychologist. April, 1994. 49(4)335-342
  7. Macarthur Violence Risk Assessment Study, Accessed November 29, 2015
  8. Harvard Health Letter. Mental illness and violence. Harvard Health Publications, Harvard Medical School. January 1, 2011. (http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/mental-illness-and-violence) Accessed November 29, 2015
  9. Citizens for Ethics. Beyond Delay: The 22 Most Corrupt Members of Congress (and Two to Watch). (http://www.citizensforethics.org/page/-/PDFs/Reports/Most%20Corrupt%20Reports/Most%20Corrupt%20Report%202007%20-%20Beyond%20DeLay%20Report.pdf?nocdn=1). Accessed November 29, 2015

20 COMMENTS

  1. I encourage everyone to write to the email address above and complain about Murphy’s conflation of violence and people labeled mentally ill, and his advocacy of neuroleptic use despite lack of evidence of efficacy. I am going to do so and cite some of the references included in this article.

    —————-
    Here are direct quotes from Murphy’s video, followed by my comments:

    1st Video:

    “(We have) restrictions on the use of medications that can and do help the mentally ill.”

    The bigger picture is that no long-term evidence suggests that neuroleptics help “the mentally ill”, and several long-term studies show worse outcomes correlated with using drugs.

    “The National Institute of Health has insufficient money to invest in needed research.”

    NIMH has wasted almost all of its money on biological and genetic research that has produced nothing of benefit to people given a mental health diagnosis. That’s why an increasing proportion of our population gets on neuroleptics every year and stays disabled.

    “(This bill) brings scientific objectivity to the substance abuse and mental health administration”

    Scientific objectivity will have to wait until reliable biomarkers are found confirming the validity of supposed mental illnesses. In other words, until never.

    “If we want to reduce… the high number of… homicides by the mentally ill… If we want to reduce the Newtowns, Auroras, Pittsburghs, and Columbines… we have to do something comprehensive… and we have to do it now.”

    Riiiight.

    “We can and must and we will take mental illness out of the shadows of ignorance despair and neglect and into the bright light of hope.”

    It’s hard to take something out of the shadows that doesn’t exist (mental illness). But if one is discussing psychotic states, forced drugging and conceptualization of psychosis as a brain illness demonstrates the utmost ignorance and leads straight to despair.

    “Treatment and action delayed is treatment denied.”

    Not getting mental health treatment in the United States is often a good thing because it means not having to take drugs which cause worse outcomes and pessimism.

    2nd Video:

    “(You’re talking about)… people who don’t even know who they are, or that they have an illness.”

    They are correct; they don’t have an illness. The delusional one is a psychologist who thinks that psychotic states are brain diseases without any evidence.

    “Somewhere between 40 and 50 percent of the people in our prisons are mentally ill.”

    I couldn’t have said it better myself… 40-50% of people in jail are mentally ill, and 50-60% of people in jail are normal i.e. non-mentally ill (sarcasm of course). It’s just so weird that people like Murphy can’t see the shades of grey and understand that probably almost all people in jail have some degree of psychological problems, and there’s no sudden cut off point where you can say that half of them have mental illness.

    “How do you get someone to consent to treatment if they don’t even understand reality.”

    Murphy, why do you presume that your version of reality is the correct one?

    “He could have been taking medication, he could have been doing much better.”

    Or more likely he could have been on the path to being a non-functional lifelong drug-dependent invalid like the vast majority of psychotic people treated by psychiatrists in the USA.

    “This is an illness, let’s treat it like an illness, treat these people like human beings and get them the help they need.”

    What an oxymoron! It is not an illness; treating psychotic people like human beings means understanding delusions and hallucinations as meaningful reactions to terror, rage, stress, abuse, and deprivation, not lying to them that they have a brain illness based on no biological or genetic evidence. That should be a crime!

    “There’s 60 million Americans with some level of mental illness at a given time… (about the severe ones)… there’s about 10 million with severe mental illness… these are the schizophrenics, the bipolar, the severely depressed… the delusions and hallucinations sometimes set them up to be involved in crime.”

    Exactly, there are 60 million Americans who are mentally ill, and 260 million Americans who are normal (sarcasm again). How simple-minded can you be to think about life problems in this black and white way? The last part of this about delusion and hallucinations setting them up to be involved in a crime should bring ethical sanctions against Murphy.

    “we have to understand, mental illness is not an attitude, it’s not a state of mind, it’s a brain illness when you have this severe mental illness, something is not functioning right in the brain, and we ought to address it like that.”

    Psychosis is not a state of mind? Did this ignorant psychologist skip the psychology classes where you learn about Freida Fromm Reichmann, Harold Searles, Silvano Arieti, Harry Sullivan, R.D. Liang, etc.? This is so embarrassing for a psychologist to be spouting this ignorant crap. How will those in the future judge our country that elected and supported psychologists espousing these delusions?

    Seems like this guy is also missing the 60 studies collected John Read showing that treating psychological problems like an illness increases stigma and worsens outcomes.

    The sad thing is, it appears that Murphy actually believes what he is saying. How can a certified psychologist who’s done therapy with individuals believe these things… maybe he’s never worked psychologically with psychotic people. This guy is like the anti-Searles, the anti-Fromm Reichmann, the anti-Steinman, the anti-Sullivan. He sounds almost like a clone of Torrey and Jaffe.

    • I just sent a relatively long, firm email, but in a much nicer more cordial tone, to the Pennsylvania state licensing commission. I primarily focused on two things, Mr. Murphy’s false conflation of people labeled mentally ill with people who commit more violent crimes, and secondly his false statements about schizophrenia and bipolar representing brain diseases when the NIMH has explicitly said that these illnesses are not reliable and they have no biological genetic markers.

      We will see if they acknowledge my letter.

      In the meantime I encourage others who are willing to actually make the effort to send a letter to note on this comment thread that they have done so and provide a brief overview of what they said.

  2. Jasenn this is a very creative approach, and a very well-researched piece. Thanks so much for writing this.

    As for this bill, I have three words: follow the money. This is how “democracy” works in America, and there is so much pork in H.R. 2646 I don’t know where to start. The “advocacy groups” in support have all been bought out as well. I hope folks who are outraged about the influence of money in politics will consider coming to Washington, DC in April for some civil disobedience. http://peopleoverpolitics.org/2015/11/16/democracy-spring-april-2016/

    • Amen! From my own advocacy efforts (granting of fresh air access for people in the MH system), the biggest obstacle is the power and money of hospital trade organizations, who have spend thousands of dollars to oppose such a basic idea. Essentially, if providing more rights costs $.01, they’re against it. The pursuit of profit overrides human dignity. Citizens United will be the ruin of democracy. And for Murphy, the interest groups have a golden opportunity – from Big Pharma to Big Hospital, professional trade groups, etc. etc.

  3. A politician caught lying? I’m SHOCKED!

    While this is a brilliant idea to go after his professional license it is not going to get him out of congress. He has the support and money of BIG Pharma behind him and a solid Republican majority in his district where he runs unopposed. He will simply give up his license and the whole matter will go away and no one will care. Even if he is found guilty of misusing his staff he will get a slap on the wrist and his bad legislation will be pushed through.

    it all comes back to the golden rule.. The man (or company) with the gold makes the rules.

      • It is useful if you can actually get someone to investigate it ethically. The APA actually endorsed his bill and spoke for him at either the markup hearing or one of the sessions for the bill.

        I think what might be more useful is a petition written by this author who writes very well and possibly going on the whitehouse website and starting it there. You do need I believe 10,000 signatures in 90 days for the presidents response but at least you will hopefully get the publicity from public.

  4. So now the Pennsylvania State Psychology board responded to my emailed letter with this:
    ———————
    Good Morning,

    Should you wish to file a formal complaint against a licensee (or an individual practicing without a license), you can print off the instructions and form that I’ve attached to this email, fill out completely and mail to the address provided. If you are unable to access this attachment, please see below or telephone the Professional Compliance Office at 1-800-822-2113 to request a complaint form by mail. Please note we have no jurisdiction over office staff or medical facilities/offices that may not be required to hold a license through this office.

    Additional information about the complaint process and online complaint forms are also available on our website at:

    http://www.doscomplaintform.state.pa.us/

    Facts you should know when submitting a complaint:

    http://www.dos.pa.gov/ProfessionalLicensing/FileaComplaint/Pages/default.aspx#.VNujeFYo7Lo

    Please be sure to include as much information as possible regarding your complaint, including complete, full name(s) and address(es) of who you are filing a complaint against. We suggest you provide the license number. You can verify licenses here:

    http://www.licensepa.state.pa.us/

    Should you have questions regarding practice or rules/regulations, please phone the appropriate Board directly. If you inquiry is regarding the amending of laws or rules/regulations, please contact your local legislator.

    Thank you for your inquiry. We hope you find this information helpful.
    —————————-
    (Bpd back) There was an attachment also which I cannot include here. If you want to get it, email them at [email protected] or at [email protected] and request the form.

    I encourage others to do this. I am going to print, write, sign and mail in a formal letter of complaint about Murphy also.

  5. If the Murphy Bill is passed I’m leaving the country.

    Locking up and torturing people (ECT and drugging) when they have done nothing wrong is just plain evil. Congressman Murphy is a very evil man. How’s that for black and white thinking?

    Punishing people before they commit crimes makes me think of the Tom Cruiz movie, The Minority Report. Murphy believes he’s psychic and can foretell crimes before they happen. Hmm, maybe he’s delusional?

  6. This relatively brief summary and critique of the bill gives a clear and concise overview I think–

    https://medium.com/harvard-public-health-review/the-murphy-bill-ethical-considerations-for-the-state-of-mental-health-care-and-its-consumers-ae08ead77a3f#.fv2pyar1t

    especially in the conclusion, where the issues of ‘neglect’ and ‘stigma’ are applied most accurately and significantly, imo–

    “”The Murphy Bill neglects patients — a critical and, arguably, the most important stakeholder. Consumers of psychiatric care should be at the forefront of this conversation; intimately involved in the research and creation of programs and policies. Though the Murphy Bill would create an advisory committee comprised of law enforcement officials, representation by service-users themselves is not mentioned. While it appears clear that we must reform our fragmented mental health care systems, our policy efforts and mainstream discussions are being filtered through stigmatized and stigmatizing lenses, and are thus misguided on what aspects need reforming and who we should be listening to.”