* EMF and schizophrenia (19/9/02)

Tramès per Klaus Rudolph (Citizens' Initiative Omega)

Dear Klaus and Dr. Munzert:

Thank you for your recent emails. I have another one on medical misdiagnoses of EHS coming straight after this. I hope Dr. Munzert that you are going to bring legal action against those psychiatrist and clinic. Let me know, please.

What I have entered below got circulated to a large ES online group, in May 2001.  You will note in this how in a well reputed basic text on schizophrenia, published c. twenty years ago, the authors state that claims to be affected by electric impulses are common among schizophrenics! This profession--psychiatry-is the one most in need of education on ES/EHS. What blunders they have made.

May 23, 2001

Yesterday, while researching information in standard texts on schizophrenia, in preparation for arguing shortly in court that electrosensitives are too readily labelled by the medical profession as psychotics who are being delusional about electricity affecting them, I came across the most illuminating statement, in one of these texts. The statement says, in essence, that a most common feature of schizophrenia is this claim of being affected by electricity! Here is the exact quote, from Part One:

Basic Information, Ch. 1: WHAT IS SCHIZOPHRENIA?

. . . manifestations of the illness [schizophrenia], however, are to
some extent influenced by the culture a person lives in. . . . the
impression of being controlled by external electrical impulses occurs
more readily in people who live in countries where there is


I should add, that this was just about the most used looking textbook  among many others on schizophrenia, in an academic library, here in  ork. Do we dare contemplate how many students have been gravely misinformed by this information and, in turn, how many electrosensitives may end up being tragically misdiagnosed as schizophrenics when these students graduate to being psychiatrists/psychologists?

And even more disturbing (that is about the profession's ignorance on our electrosensitive condition) is the promotional blurb on this book's jacket:

"'Schizophrenia' was once a dreaded diagnosis, avoided by professional and lay person alike because of fear and ignorance of its causes and treatment. Much has changed in recent years.  In 1976, the authors initiated an exciting and innovative program at the Clarke Institute of Psychiatry in Toronto, Canada, aimed at dispelling the fears, guilt, frustrations, and despair which too often afflicted patients and their families . . ..  In 1981 the American Psychiatric association recognized their success with 'A Certificate of Significant Achievement.' This book is an outgrowth of the authors' efforts and experiences with the Aiding Families of Schizophrenics program."

What lifelong damage these authors and anyone who has come under their influence have done to any electrosensitives who came within their professional orbit!

This is bad enough.  But, in my research, I came across even worse that can happen to electrosensitives who have been misdiagnosed as schizophrenics. They are caught in an unbelievably horrific psychiatric net that comes near to impossible to extract themselves from.  Why? A major reason is due to the accepted psychiatric belief that a schizophrenic's DENIAL of the illness (called poor/lack of insight) is a primary symptom of being schizophrenic! I read through parts of 2 vols. of an unpublished dissertation (University College Cork, 1999), entitled, INSIGHT AND ILLUSION: AWARENESS OF ILLNESS IN SCHIZOPHRENIA FROM CLINICIAN AND PATIENT PERSPECTIVES. The author, Rosemarie McCabe, states that this self-deception about the illness may arise because "Acknowledging that one has a mental illness, and in particular schizophrenia, has potential negative consequences as one may be subject to social labelling. . . .  denial of illness may be interpreted as a means of avoiding acceptance of the socially sanctioned 'mentally ill' label, thereby maintaining self-esteem and a positive identity."  (p. 96-97)

Also, Dr. McCabe stresses that the patient for good insight must acknowledge that s/he is mentally ill!

Good Grief! This is almost beyond belief that electrosensitives who have been ensnared in a psychiatric misdiagnosis like this could be forced into an acknowledgement/confession that their illness--that is their illusion that they are being affected by EMR [electromagnetic radiation]-is completely mental!

Here are just two quotes, on the same theme, from post-1990 specialists that McCabe included: "'It has been believed for a long time that schizophrenics lack so commonly in insight that it has become a factor in the diagnosis'" (Takai et al, 1992, p. 166).

"'Poor insight in schizophrenia is a familiar clinical problem and an intriguing scientific fact.'" (Amandor and Strauss, 1993, p. 12).

Don't you think that this--being pronounced schizophrenic because one professes suffering bio-effects from external electromagnetic sources and being considered to be making no progress toward recovery until "insight" into one's delusional state is acknowledged--is the most horrendous situation of all, when it comes to electrosensitivity?

Isn't it bad enough to have electrosensitivity without being landed fully in hell by these psychiatrists with their unforgivable mis-labelling.  They deserve to be charged the very highest punitive damages in any court cases on this issue.  Just think of the appalling quality of life, outlined below, that their unfortunate electrosensitive patients may have been forced to endure due to their professional negligence.

"Society for the most part regards a person with schizophrenia as somewhat disgraced and incompetent.  The label 'schizophrenic' casts doubt on one's capacity to act as a rational human being and calls into question one's value in society in a way which for example, 'cancer patient' does not." (McCabe)

I believe  of all medical professionals, psychiatrists and psychologists are the ones who most urgently need to be educated on our illness, electrosensitivity. A hideous can of worms, complete with vast lawsuits, may yet be opened on just how many electrosensitives have had their lives destroyed by being mislabelled schizophrenic because they claimed they were affected by "external electrical impulses".

How common is it, internationally, to misdiagnose electrosenstivies? Some answers:

Below, is the text of my reply to a correspondent who was seeking information on the prevalence of EHS persons being medically misdiagnosed as psychotic. It was written c. Spring 2001.

"I agree with you that of course governments are in no hurry to correct this appalling diagnostic situation for EHS victims!  The lucre from the IT economy comes first. It's just  too bad for some of us that our health is compromised.

You asked how extensive is such medical misdiagnosis of electrosensitives as psychotics/schizophrenics?  Well, it's not that I have wonderful statistics on this with me today, but I do have beside me a response letter I received  from what could be a typical Irish psychologist (his credentials are: M.B. B.A., M.R.C. Psch.)who is professionally treating schizophrenia and mental illnesses at one of Ireland's best known Dublin hospitals. I had sent him lots of information on ES together with my own experiences of the condition. (It included verbatim the information I sent you yesterday.) This psychologist qualified in the 1970's, that is prior to the advent of ES. (Our illness, with some exceptions, is essentially a post 1990's phenomenon.) He was one  of the many top ranking mental health specialists that I wrote to, to present my ES case history to and petition independent evaluations (that is of my mental health) from themin support of my legal case. (This is a medical malpractice action based on misdiagnosing me as psychotic.) No one would even give me an interview to meet with him/her!  The usual excuses were: no space in schedule or/and do not know anything about electrosensitivity, so can't give a professional opinion. But this Dublin psychologist went even further in his response to my request. This is exactly what he wrote after letting me know he was too busy to see me:

"I have however read your enclosed account of the onset of your difficulties and subsequent events as you have experienced them. Obviously what you have been through has been quite difficult and no doubt distressing for you. Professionally of course I have no expertise in the effects of ElectroMagnetic radiation. I would however in all honesty have to reflect back to you that your account of events as experienced in your home in Pasadena in 1996 would be in keeping with some what similar accounts reported to me by patients of mine whom I would diagnose as suffering from schizophrenia, paranoid type.

I understand that this of course is not what you may wish to hear me saying. In addition of course I have not met with you nor studied your medical or psychiatric case notes, but in all honesty I think it appropriate to offer you my clinical impression and hope that this may be in your long term interest."

Now, what do you think of that for a professional psychologist? The worthiness of a life is to be tossed aside with a flippant diagnosis? And just how many may this "professional" have misdiagnosed in that leading Dublin hospital?

Related to this, I came across in a book entitled, HUMAN RIGHTS: A EUROPEAN PERSPECTIVE (1994) an article by Tom Cooney on Human Rights challenges to Psychiatry and Law. In this he states that "many studies show that the validity and reliability of psychiatric diagnoses or formulations are poor. Reliability refers to the degree to which two or more psychiatrists will  agree about a conclusion given a certain set of facts. Validity is the degree to which psychiatrists' conclusions match reality. Psychiatrists often disagree on broad diagnostic judgments and even on specific diagnoses." (p 131)

You asked how many have brought legal actions similar to mine. Probably I am the first with a case of this nature--at least in Ireland. As I said to  you yesterday, even Professor Brice Dickson, Chief Commissioner of N. Ireland HR Commission, let me know how impossible it was for some persons who felt they were also misdiagnosed as being mentally ill to even get lawyers to take on their cases. That is why psychiatry and related mental health professions  are the most dangerous of all when it comes to misdiagnosis and putting a patient on the wrong diagnostic conveyor belt. I just happen to be a tremendous fighter who never gives in.  I've been a strong outspoken Human Rights advocate on many issues for many years and I just never give up, it  doesn't matter how intimidating or near-to-hopeless a situation seems.

Here is what I wrote to an Irish Court Registrar about my fruitless petitions for legal help, in my medical negligence case.

"Due to the nature of my case . . . I have to self-represent in court. It is my understanding of Irish law that I have a right to a fair trial and to access to justice. Judgment in the AIREY v IRELAND case upheld this right and subsequently civil Legal Aid was introduced in Ireland, to ensure there was access to justice. But I have been refused Irish legal aid and also refused it on appeal. I have spent almost two years appealing desperately to ALL legal agencies, in Ireland, for help on bringing my grievance to court. And I have been refused, right up to closing time on the Friday evening (Dec. 8, 2000) that preceded my court appearance on Dec. 11 for petitioning an extension of time for serving papers on my defendants. My penultimate telephone call, on that Friday, was to the Department of Justice to ask for a solicitor being put at my disposal to seek the extension.  I was refused on the grounds that the Dep. of Justice does not interfere with court proceedings. My final call was to the Irish Human Rights Legal Council. I was refused help. I asked straight out: Have I petitioned every legal agency available to an Irish citizen to help her to see justice when her constitutional rights have been grieviously violated.? Yes, indeed, was the reply, there is no legal protection/help for you forthcoming!"

Before I leave this subject of my medical misdiagnosis I will let you know that when I read my medical notes (which, by the way, I  had to fight another battle on paper to be given these by the new Irish FOI--Freedom of Information medical board, as they considered my diagnosis suggested that I might be far too emotionally fragile to read the doctors devastating assessment of my mental state!) I discovered to my horror that the doctor who wrote the lengthiest review of me and stated unequivocally that it was her professional opinion that I was a paranoid schizophrenic was not even qualified to make such judgments. She was a twenty five year old kid, who had just got her basic M.D. and was doing a six month internship stint at the psychiatric wing of Cork University Hospital. She hadn't even looked me in the eye, nor spoke more than a few sentences, during my sole session with her! The other doctors kept my diagnosis to psychoses, if I remember properly. But this fledging, this medical tyro, jumped right in at the deep end in diagnosis, totally outside her depth though she was! Nothing like being forthright about her opinion when it comes to impressing her medical bosses and advancing her career!

To turn to other electrosensitives. Have they also been misdiagnosed as having basically psychological/psychiatric illnesses? Yes-and unqualified yes! And I have written proof of what I am saying from the many completed questionaires I sent to major ES support groups internationally, early in 2000. The response was in unison: electrosensitivity is not recognised as a distinct illness, neither by the government nor the official medical organisation of that particular country. The illness is regarded as psychological/psychiatric. I'll quote for you below a relevant  excerpt from a briefing paper I gave an Irish journalist some months ago [Spring 2001]:

In Germany, for instance, electrosensitivity is conveniently categorised as essentially a mental health problem. Recently, I was forwarded a German article on this issue, with an accompanying English summary:

"In Germany, in general, illness resulting from exposure to electromagnetic fields and other environmental hazards is not officially recognised and there is a growing trend in Germany to classify and diagnose persons suffering from electrosensitivity and unable to work as a result as psychiatric patients which has now been officially embraced by the law (recent health reforms). According to the article, persons suffering from environmental illnesses have three options:

1. The illness is not recognised and the patient has to undergo regular checks to see if he/she is able to return to work.

2. If the person admits to imagining the symptoms and suffering from psychiatric disturbances, he/she may be entitled to a small pension.

3. The person asserts that the illness is related to his/her occupation and gets compensation pension.

The economic interests of pharmaceutical industry is given as the main motive behind all of this."

To turn to the U.S.A. where the illness, electrosensitivity, is again not recognised by mainstream medicine. Lucinda Grant, an author of a number of books on electrosensitivity and who is herself quite severely electrosensitive in a letter of 3/2/00 stated: "Because it [electrosensitivity] is not formally recognised as an illness, disability benefits can be difficult . . ..I have recommended to some ES [electrosensitives] that if they have symptoms which would allow a disability status, to apply for it without indicating under what conditions the symptoms occur (electromagnetic exposure.)  It seems that if a person did not know they were ES and applied for disability they could get the benefits if they had significant symptoms.  That we know why should not count against us, but often does.  (Focus on symptoms rather than cause.)"

In Japan it is sadly not much different from the others. An electrosensitive long time resident there, states in a recent letter that she has met with a leader of one of the largest ES support networks, in  Japan, and he has informed her that ". . . many ERVs [electromagnetic radiation victims] come to him for help because doctors treat their condition as a mental illness. Most will not  talk about their condition. They are ashamed. The culture considers victimization a sign of bad karma."


Imelda O'Connor, EHS

Citizens' Initiative Omega
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