Britney Spears Speaks Out Against ‘Abusive’ Conservatorship: ‘I Want to Be Heard’

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From CNN: “Britney Spears broke her silence in a court hearing on Wednesday regarding her court-ordered conservatorship that has been in place for nearly 13 years.

. . . She said she felt she had been forced to perform, was given no privacy and was made to use birth control, take medication and attend therapy sessions against her will.

Spears said on Wednesday that she was put on lithium, despite her objections.

. . . Britney Spears said she has expressed her frustration about her medical care and management of her career to her dad but that she felt like he ‘loved’ the control he had over her.

. . . ‘I thought I might become happy because I’ve been in denial,’ she said. ‘I’ve been in shock. I am traumatized. You know, fake it til’ you make it. But now I’m telling you the truth, OK. I’m not happy. I can’t sleep. I’m so angry it’s insane and I’m depressed.’

. . . She pleaded with the judge to take her concerns seriously.

‘The last time I spoke to you…made me feel like I was dead, like I didn’t matter, like nothing had been done to me, like you thought I was lying,’ Spears said. ‘I want to be heard. I’m telling you this again so that maybe you understand the depth and degree and the damage…I want and deserve changes going forward.’

. . . Spears ended her comments by saying, ‘Basically this conservatorship is doing me way more harm than good. I deserve to have a life. I’ve worked my whole life,’ she said, asking for the conservatorship to end. ‘I feel ganged up on, I feel bullied, I feel left out and alone. I’m tired of feeling alone. I deserve to have the same rights as anybody.'”

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Audio and transcript of full court statement →

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12 COMMENTS

  1. Yikes!

    Among the many issues, we must consider is Ms. Spears (along with countless others under forced psychiatric treatment) being treated as a modern-day Carrie Buck?

    The 1927 U.S. Supreme Court case of Buck v. Bell decided the fate of Carrie Buck, an 18-year-old patient at the Virginia State Colony for Epileptics and Feeble Minded who was sentenced to forced sterilization under a law enacted to promote the “health of the patient and the welfare of society.”

    The Court’s decision sanctioned the state’s use of medical procedures on select individuals without their consent. Unlike other infamous decisions, the ruling in Buck has never been directly overruled and there are some reasons to believe that Buck is still good law today.

    The decision in Buck v Bell set a dangerous precedent as medical doctors in the United States were allowed to pick citizens they felt were of a lesser mental capacity and label them as members of a class of people who were no longer afforded equal protection, informed consent and could be denied the fundamental right to procreate.

    “I want to get married and have a baby,” Spears told the judge in her emotional 40-minute testimony. “I want [the IUD] taken out so I can start trying to have another baby. But this so-called team won’t let me go to the doctor to take it out because they don’t want me to have any more children.”

    These are very strong allegations and her case should be of heightened concern for anyone who has ever been labeled “mentally ill”.

    • If you look at the music industry lots of famous musicians have gone off the rails, had some therapy and returned again, with full credibility.

      Britney Spears might have (many years ago) demonstrated her emotions, reacted to intrusive journalists, and ‘shaved her head’. So why is she being treated so unfairly?

      • The bigger question here is why is it so taboo in our culture for women to shave their heads? Why is the behavior of paparazzi legal? Why was Britney allowed to be treated that way legally with little practical recourse? Why does our culture punish the victims of abuse and trauma? How do we go from “you can’t hack in on your own” to “you can’t make ANY decisions at all”? Why are the only options rugged independence or total dependence?

        “It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”

        • If we propose that it is “society” that is sick, we have no way out.

          If we can entertain the possibility that just some people in society are sick, and that they are the ones making it hard on the rest of us, then there could be a way out.

          I think everyone here should become more familiar with the subject of psychopathy (the anti-social personality). I think this subject is key to understanding the situation we are in.

        • Dear Kindredspirit,

          I agree, criticism of women shaving their heads is mean-spirited, unkind and uncalled for.

          The behavior of the paparazzi motivated by greed is disgusting, inhumane and disrespectful.

          The unconstitutional mistreatment of individuals labeled “mentally ill”, regardless of race, color, creed, religion, gender or socioeconomic class is sanctioned by the highest court in the US.

          While coercive treatment is considered to be in the best interest to protect our society, a patient’s rights must still be preserved.

          The Court’s decision in Wyatt v. Stickney 325 F.Supp. 781 (M.D.Ala. 1971), a key issue was that patients have a “constitutional right to receive such individual treatment as will give each of them a realistic opportunity to be cured or to improve his or her mental condition.”

          Individuals labeled “mentally ill” are among our society’s most vulnerable, marginalized, stigmatized and discriminated against class of people.

          They are in need of ethical advocates who are well-educated and will act in their best interest.

          I believe most individuals involved in advancing mainstream advocacy agendas are not well-educated and in fact are just spoon-fed information from psychiatrists.

          Yes, what is happening to Britney is outrageous and seems to be a direct result of being labeled with a “mental illness”, but we also should question, does our society care more about the mistreatment of celebrities v non-celebrities who are far worse off?

          It will be interesting to see what impact the #FreeBritney movement has on advancing agendas.

          Take care, Maria

          • “While coercive treatment is considered to be in the best interest to protect our society, a patient’s rights must still be preserved.

            The Court’s decision in Wyatt v. Stickney 325 F.Supp. 781 (M.D.Ala. 1971), a key issue was that patients have a “constitutional right to receive such individual treatment as will give each of them a realistic opportunity to be cured or to improve his or her mental condition.”

            What we want is the right to refuse “treatment” because these “treatments” are lacking in scientific validity. Coercive “treatment” doesn’t protect, it disables in the name of protecting society. What it does is intentionally disable those with unacceptable thoughts, expressions of emotion, or unwillingness or inability to be exploited for capitalist profit.

            The abuses and traumas of living in a society of this type further traumatize those who have been harmed rather than hold those doing the harm unaccountable.

            I think you meant to mostly agree with me but I find the framing troubling. The behavior of Paparazzi should be illegal. It isn’t “inhumane” or “disrespectful”. It’s a dangerous violation of human rights that drives people to insanity. Princess Diana lost her life trying to outrun this phenomena in Paris in 1997. How is it still a thing anywhere? How is this not absolutely forbidden criminal behavior? Why are these photographers’ often “crazy” and dangerous behavior in pursuit of a photograph not illegal? Why do celebrities not have a right to privacy and a life? These are sociopathic cultural norms that need to change. Our laws do not protect us. Britney has been criticized for naively attempting to befriend paparazzi to try to get them to stop hounding her.

            As far as women shaving their head, this criticism isn’t “unkind” or “mean-spirited”. It’s sexism. Men can do it, women are pathologized for it. My brother is half bald and has been shaving his head since he started going bald at 19 years old. When my daughter shaved her head just before she turned 18, this was used to implicate she was “manic”. These are sexist cultural norms where men and boys can do things and women and girls can’t without it being called “mental illness”. These sexist stereotypes have weaseled their way into acceptance via “gender identity” where we now have to “identify” with the proscripted local cultural norms belonging to “maleness” and “femaleness” or else be “non-binary”. This is insanity producing insanity. Let people express how they want to express! Let them reject stereotypes. And let’s call sexism for what it is.

            And lastly, those labeled “mentally ill” are made vulnerable, marginalized, and discriminated against. We don’t start out that way. Many of us have been deeply harmed and then we are punished and marginalized for unacceptable expressions of that harm, as Britney has been.

            What has happened to Britney isn’t important because she’s a celebrity. It’s important because it brings to the light of day how so many people’s rights are violated so grievously. The situation is so bad that nobody even knows how many American citizens are in these kinds of legal arrangements. And AOT proponents have been leading the charge for MORE control of those so labeled.

            Court testimony revealed that her own lawyer, who has made over 3 million dollars from “representing” her, colluded with the judge to not inform her that the court had not ruled on her right to remove her IUD. That was in 2014. He reported to her father that she had cursed in front of her children. I don’t know many parents who have NEVER cursed in front of their children. Samuel Ingram and Judge Penny should both be disbarred for gross abdication of legal responsibility.

            And if we truly believe this is a disability rights issue rather than simply a gross miscarriage of justice and violation of human rights of a competent person, where are all the social justice warriors? Where is Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats? I’ll tell you where they are. They are busy making sure that poor people receiving disability don’t buy guns. They are busy exploiting the voiceless. It has been Republicans calling for congressional hearings on these issues.

            And for the record, Britney isn’t the only female celebrity held hostage by a conservatorship in California. Her case isn’t unique, only the loudest.

          • Dear Kindredspirit,

            Yes, I agree with you absolutely, unequivocally 100 percent, and then some!

            I am a very friendly person, I am nonjudgmental and not a person who is argumentative. My sincere apologies for poorly framing my comments.

            The behavior of Paparazzi should be illegal, but it may be difficult to figure out how to criminalize. Perhaps people against their behavior could just boycott tabloids?

            I understand COMPLETELY the issues surrounding forced psychiatric treatment, have experienced it first hand and on a number of occasions have successfully advocated for myself and others.

            The legal system is fascinating and psychology along with fact finding play essential roles in legal arguments.

            It’s not MY opinion that a “mentally ill” person should be forcibly treated by psychiatrists because they pose a threat, it is the reasoning behind state involuntary treatment law.

            Legal historian Paul Lombardo stated “Buck [v. Bell] earns a place in the legal hall of shame not only because Holmes’ opinion was unnecessarily callous but also because it was based on deceit and betrayal,” and, in my opinion, is the ultimate in sexism and psychiatric abuse/empowerment.

            True, those labeled “mentally ill” are made vulnerable, marginalized, and discriminated against. And, they have also been made our most hated class of people in society.

            The “mentally ill” are our society’s throwaways.

            The Wyatt v. Stickney decision is important because

            1. it supports the right to refuse medication management as the only form of treatment, and should open the door for other options

            2. many medical conditions can be misdiagnosed as a “mental illness”

            There are no medical tests to determine an individual has a mental disorder but there are MANY tests that can determine a person does NOT have a mental disorder, but instead has a medical condition but doctors fail to run those tests.

            In some of Robert Whitaker’s talks he mentions psychosis has “flu-like characteristics” of coming and going on its own. And, in Mad in America, he mentions documented cases of “insanity” (what would probably now be considered psychosis) that were cured by extracting infected back molars.

            I have experienced medical conditions, including an infected back molar, that have caused “psycho-flu”. I have experienced forced hospitalization for up to 30 days (doctors love to suck every dime out of insurance). I have seen elderly abused in psych wards. I have had family members suffer terribly because of psych drugs and a family member commit suicide while on 5 psych meds and 3 days after ECT.

            I could write on and on but my point is, we are on the same side, we have just had different experiences getting here.

            I look forward to more discussions.

            Thanks, Maria

          • Maria, thanks for clarification. It’s funny how fraught online communication can be. I learned only yesterday that I’m apparently out of touch with how “the kids” use punctuation in texts and ellipses are a sign of passive aggression when texting with the younger crowd. This explains why my own kids sometimes misinterpret my text messages and think I’m mad and I’m here scratching my head, having grown up with (and using) standard printed English. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to not writing full punctuated sentences in a text message. 🙂

            Anyway, yes, we are of like minds. I see how you are using your references now, not in agreement but for illustration.

            My own Lyme disease is, of course, one of the medical mimics you mention. And my history of high ACEs and complex trauma really confounded any thought doctors may have had along the way about the potential for a real medical issue to be underlying a lot of the emotional struggles I had. And November 2001 was really the turning point in my life with the doctor who pressed a few places in my back, declared my illness fibromyalgia and poly drugged me on my first visit. It seems to me that it’s doctors who are addicted to their magic formulas, if this then that, and can’t really see the bigger picture with someone like me who had a complex medical history even by young adulthood.

            And while I’ve never tried to minimize the number of men who are harmed by our current systems who’ve experienced the kinds of extreme traumas I have, our culture has a different way of dealing with them. On average, men who have been severely traumatized in the ways that I have tend to find their way into the prison system. Their violence is more often outwardly directed. Whereas women’s violence is more often inwardly directed with cutting or unsuccessful suicide attempts or emotional instability. Men trend toward more antisocial labels and prison while women trend toward the borderline label and psychiatric drugging. I think both end up being controlled, just in different ways. This is why some of us point out the social control intent of psychiatry and how it’s functions as an extension of the prison system. It’s just a different type of imprisonment. But I think a lot of us women, especially those of us labeled as “high functioning” tend to see ourselves in Britney Spears shoes.

            But I also think her wealth was a huge driver of her conservatorship. She’s been a meal ticket for her father since she was a child star on Disney. She would likely have never been in this situation if she’d been a mere mortal. So I think when we talk about the more widespread use of conservatorship, we need to explore the motivations behind those where less money is involved to try to understand the nuances of their genesis. I have a nephew with Down Syndrome and now additional Autism and ADHD diagnoses who is heavily drugged and will likely never live independently. Some form of guardianship is likely going to be entirely appropriate for him as an adult. And I think it’s time to start having serious discussions about the benefit, necessity, of extending CASA and guardian ad litem programs to these adults. It’s clear to me that Britney’s court appointed attorney has not been acting in her interests, and that the influence of her being a dependable income stream likely played a role. And the voluntary nature of the CASA program would act as a counter to that financial influence.

            But again, we also need to change the cultural attitude towards those who’ve been so badly harmed. I’m a big advocate for restorative justice. There are some truly bad people out there but I believe that good people do “bad” things for myriad reasons and that our current justice system is mostly a punishment system that does little for victims and makes almost no attempt at rehabilitation for offenders, in much the same way that psychiatry makes very little attempt to rehabilitate the harmed and instead labels us as having lifelong mental diseases and drugs is into being unable to think straight.

            As for how we could criminalize paparazzi behavior, we could start with making nonconsensual human photography illegal to sell and purchase. This could be written in a way so that news outlets covering legitimate stories would be protected and could disseminate images that are in the public interest but that paparazzi selling random photos of celebrities walking their dogs (or going to therapy) would not be a legal activity and would constitute harassment. That seems like the most straight forward way to end the practice to me. There is nothing newsworthy in a decent society about someone going to see their therapist or buying coffee or walking their dog. It would take some cultural shifts as well. But celebrities really are just people who deserve to live their lives in peace.

            I’m interested in your feedback, of course. These kinds of legal issues are indeed fascinating. I know it’s a struggle to balance the law in a way that doesn’t produce unintended consequences.

            I appreciate the opportunity for a friendly nuanced discussion of what are really important issues!

          • Dear Kindredspirits,

            Once again, I agree wholeheartedly on all accounts, and then some!

            1. Regarding online communication, my husband and I do not have any children but we do have 15 nieces/nephews so I hear ya on that one and LOL

            2. Regarding Lyme disease/fibromyalgia, etc. have met many people under same situation, my heart goes out to you and the many who are probably misdiagnosed with a psych dx

            3. Regarding your nephew with Down Syndrome and on meds, he is in my heart and in prayers, very deep issue and part of a long story, along the way I was blessed with the opportunity to finish a bachelor’s in legal studies at the University at Buffalo, as a non-traditional student (20 years older than most other students) you just see things in a different light, I chose courses carefully, selected Medical Ethics as an elective which reviewed the 1983 film “Who Shall Survive?”

            Doctors and nurses at John Hopkins were allowed to reenact the actual starvation death of a baby born with Down, the film “was produced by the Kennedy Foundation to demonstrate how such decisions, decisions which are being made today around the country, impact on all those involved.”

            All I can say is that film shocked me to my very core and still makes me sick to my stomach thinking about it

            1983 just does not seem that long ago, how was this shocking practice encouraged by doctors?

            4. On regarding motives behind conservatorship, absolutely agree and believe the privatization of jails/prisons/psych wards/assisted programs/group homes, along with research and MANY other factors all have also played a role in making and keeping the “mentally ill” as meal tickets v applying common sense solutions.

            The Delancey Street Foundation is an interesting nonprofit using a “teach a man to fish” approach and started with the mission of taking “ex-convicts and ex-addicts and teach them to be teachers, general contractors, and truck drivers.”

            5. Nonconsensual human photography legislation as explained is brilliant, seems like perfect common sense and is slowly making its way along.

            As with all legislation, me must consider we do live in a sue-happy society, there may be slippery slopes/loopholes and the internet is the Wild, Wild West of lawsuits complicated by jurisdiction.

            For example, news outlets share information and typically earn income from advertisements. Sadly, credible news outlets love dirty laundry just as much as tabloids.

            With advent of the internet, anyone can set up a website/social network account, share information with the world, earn income from advertisements, have a photo/video go viral and become featured on all major news outlets.

            It would be important to consider, would a criminal law against nonconsensual human photography:

            1. apply to only paparazzi taking nonconsensual pictures of celebrities or to all people taking nonconsensual pictures of celebrities?

            2. apply to only photographic/digital reproductions in magazines/websites of tabloids, or all print media/websites?

            3. protect the rights of individuals who are not of celebrity status equal to those who are celebrities?

            Have you ever seen the website peopleofwalmart.com?

            There are probably a lot of people on that site who would like their picture taken down but how?

            It’s sad to know how people, both celebrity and non-celebrity are treated in everyday life.

            Best we can do is try and make a positive difference where we are able to and keep speaking out when possible.

            Thank you for your advocacy and your conversation 🙂

            “The squeaky wheel gets the grease”

  2. Wow!

    When Britney speaks, CNN listens!

    Take her case and multiply it by a million or more, and you have some idea what is going on on this planet right now. For the criminals these systems serve (or can be persuaded to serve) this is all great “fun.” For the rest of us, this is so deeply disturbing that it’s a little difficult to confront.

    The criminals need this. The mass of humanity does not. But there are few among the saner ones who are courageous enough to stand up to the criminals and call them out. We all know how quickly they will defend their ways with murder. Yet stand up to them we must!

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