J Fields updates the case of Susan Lindauer, the former journalist and congressional staffer (and cousin to Andy Card) who faces life in a federal mental institution for challenging government policy on Iraq prior to and following 9/11:
Susan’s CJA attorney, Sanford Talken, called Dr. Goldstein from Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons. Among Dr. Goldstein’s credits was the fact that he was the Medical Director of the Supreme Court Psych. Clinic in 1970 to 1974.
Dr. Goldstein had his own diagnosis of Susan: Delusional Disorder, mixed type. This was different from the diagnosis that the Justice Department asserted, that was provided by the doctors who observed her within the Federal Bureau of Prisons, at Carswell. Carswell, we learned last Thursday, had diagnosed her as suffering from: Psychotic Disorder, not otherwise specified.
A delusional disorder of mixed type, Dr. Goldstein explained, included firmly held convictions that are irrational. Delusions of persecution and delusions of grandiosity are exhibited by patients with this medical condition. He pointed out that the delusions are irrational, but not bizarre–they are typically things that could be feasible as opposed to things that are impossible. It might be possible that somebody is trying to hurt you, but if you fear that and they really are not, then it is irrational. Bizarre would be believing that Martians are trying to hurt you.
Grandiose delusions could be thinking one has special talents, capabilities, relationships, and even spiritual gifts. The DSM code for the disease is DSM IV-TR.
Dr. Goldstein asserted that this was a proper diagnosis because it matched all of Susan’s symptoms. His testimony described Carswell’s diagnosis as a “wastebasket” diagnosis.
“Psychotic disorder not otherwise specified,” he pointed out, “is a diagnosis that can be used if one cannot reach a more specific diagnosis.”
And this is the basis on which the government seeks to put her away without a trial.
Dr. Goldstein’s description of what the drugs the doctors at Carswell hope to use on Susan was chilling:
Among the non-serious side effects was a category called EPS that included muscle spasms, Parkinsons-like symptoms, and other things extremely annoying to a patient. These were called non-serious because they, while extremely annoying, were not permanent or fatal.
There were also fatal side effects.
Dr. Goldstein asserted that there is no medication that will effective treat Susan’s condition. He concluded that as there were no benefits of such treatment and big risks that such a prescription should not be carried out.
You know, if I were a conspiratorial sort, I’d be inclined to think that this institutionalizing and medicating Susan is precisely the government’s goal.
Susan is charged with being an unregistered agent of the government of Saddam Hussein. If she was, as she claims, acting on behalf of intelligence operatives — and there is at least one witness who says she’s been seen in the company of known CIA and DIA agents — then the government might find itself in the embarrassing position of explaining why it ignored a peace overture from Saddam that was delivered to the president’s chief of staff by his cousin! (In similar fashion to Condoleeza Rice’s dismissal of the letter from Iran’s President Ahmadinejad before it was translated into English.)
Locking Susan into a mental institution accomplishes two things: First, if she’s medicated, she’s not likely to make any sense, which would prevent her from ever being declared competent to stand trial. Second, even if she is declared competent, she’s been marginalized. I mean, she’s mental, right?
J made another astute observation:
It also caught my attention that the doctor, in describing delusions of grandiosity, said they were merely irrational not bizarre, as one could have special spiritual capabilities. He said it pretty fast and didn’t dwell upon it, but I wondered how we scientifically discern between actual spiritual gifts and imagined ones. Did Moses really see a burning bush? I’ll go on to consider whether, if God talks to humans in ways that can seem delusional, it follows that by divine design there might be few possible countermeasures, and for good reason.
I get a mental picture of a trial similar to the case against Santa Claus in Miracle on 34th Street. Are we approaching a day in which anyone who professes an “irrational” belief — i.e., in the existence of an invisible, omnipotent God — is in danger of being forcibly medicated by the state?
Susan Lindauer’s competency hearing continues in New York on June 6. Thankfully, she won’t be sent back to the institution in Fort Worth before then.