The slow torture of Mary Weiss

Last week I got an email from Mike Howard.  It had been sent at 3:56 am.  “Sorry for this email, but Mary suffered another stroke last evening.  I’m heading down to the hospital now again.”

I wish I could say this came as a shock.  But to be honest, I can’t.  How anyone can survive the kind of psychological torture Mary Weiss has been forced to endure I don’t know.  When I think of Mary, I think of the Book of Job.  I think of God making a deal with the University of Minnesota.  You can take away her child.  Let him commit suicide.  Hide the facts.  Deny responsibility.  Refuse to investigate. Tell people that her son’s suicide was her fault.  File a legal action against her demanding money that she does not have, just to intimidate her.  See exactly how much she can stand, then torture her some more.

When I first met Mary, five years ago, she was a strong, determined, very angry woman.  It was the fall of 2008 at the Coffee News Café in St. Paul; I remember she was wearing an Obama campaign button on her sweater.  But everything changed sixteen months ago when she suffered a severe stroke.She has fought back hard to recover, but the road hasn’t been easy. It seems as if a month doesn’t pass without Mike calling the paramedics, or rushing her to the doctor, or taking her to the emergency room. This recent stroke was the most severe setback in a while. Mary has been in the hospital for twelve days.

Fighting the University of Minnesota may have been the right thing for Mary to do – in fact, it may well have been the only thing to do – but it has taken a vicious toll on her health.  I don’t think anyone who has not gone through such a battle can understand the kind of emotional exhaustion it involves. Your days cycle between gnawing anxiety and futile rage. Your thoughts grow narrow and obsessive. You struggle to sleep, but when you do, you are tormented by nightmares.  Occasionally you are given slivers of hope – if not, it probably would be impossible to keep going – but they are rare.  Even the people who support you say you are being eaten up from the inside.

Worst of all are the empty promises of help. You file a complaint with an advocate or legal office, only to see the complaint go nowhere. You find damning evidence that might turn the battle in your favor, but you’re instructed that it has to be kept secret. You work constantly to make the case public, hoping that publicity will bring about change, but after only a few days the story is forgotten. You meet with reporters and politicians who promise to help, but they don’t follow through. Nobody seems to understand what a devastating blow it is to delay, or stop returning calls, or offer help and then pull it away. To them it probably seems like a small thing. But when you are desperate, these false promises feel like a kick in the head. They are almost worse than nothing at all.

Nobody knows this better than Mike Howard. It has been 3397 days since Dan died, and I doubt that a single one of those days has passed without Mike working on the case.To call him driven would be to completely understate the fury with which he has pursued this. He is like a man imprisoned on death row for a crime he didn’t commit, fighting and clawing to find some way out before the execution date. There is not a single document related to Dan’s case that he has not committed to memory, not an angle for appeal that he has not explored. And what is the result? “We have worked on this thing for nine fucking years and we have gotten nothing,” Mike says. No vindication, no recognition, no justice.

Maybe justice will come eventually. I hope so, not just for Mary’s sake but for that of other families who have been abused and mistreated by the university. I wish every family had advocates as tenacious and single-minded as Mike, but people like that don’t come around very often. The fact is, University of Minnesota officials have known for a long time that they are fighting an injured, emotionally exhausted 70 year-old woman in fragile health, and they believe they can crush her.  They believe they can accomplish this not by attacking her directly, as they have done before, but by a series of endless denials, delays and stonewalling.  If they can outlast her, they think, they will win.  And apparently many other people will simply watch and wait until that happens.

Carl Elliott

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9 thoughts on “The slow torture of Mary Weiss

  1. Katherine Jaconello says:

    I feel horrible for Mary. The mechanisms of suppression are so ingrained in our society – it does not hit you until you, yourself, go through it. Then probably it is too late because you are too exhausted and ill, maybe drugged with psychotropics or just plain demoralized beyond belief. Maybe even gagged by a court order. The Duplessis orphans of Quebec have been seeking justice for 60 years with not a whiff of it from any possible government or religious body. They were signed into psychiatric hospitals in the 40s amd 50s as “mentally retarded” so the federal government would have to pay for them, not the provincial and then used for developing shock treatment, insulin shock, lobotomy and chlorpromazine. The doctor who came from Nazi Germany in 1936 to Quebec got awards for that dirty work. The University of Minnesota will not crush Mary as this travesty will live a life of its own. The public HAS to rise up and protest as it may very well happen to them, their Mom or Dad, their child or a friend.

    • Cheryl Prax says:

      Katherine. Thanks for bringing my attention to the Duplessis orphans. I had never heard of them before (I live in the UK)

    • Madeleine Lapointe says:

      thank you for telling the world of another atrocity that lingers still in the lives of those tortured and forgotten! This shows that it is still happening and will as long as it is not brought out and fought against.

  2. J says:

    A necessary outing of systemic abuse by the U of M against these innocent victims.
    Perhaps a coalition of people with similar experiences could come together to support and address this abuse. A human rights suit might garner some measure of justice.
    Prayers to Mary and Mike.
    Rest in Peace Dan.
    Shame on you U of M, you dirty bullies.

  3. E says:

    This is such a critical “case”, but it is really also a crime. Reading Robert Whitaker’s excellent book , “Anatomy of an Epidemic” gave me ever more insight into the massive tragedies inflicted on people deemed “mentally ill” in this country, and academic medicine itself is one of the major culprits, partnering as they do with Big Pharma. I lost my only son to a psych. drug (side effects successfully hidden by the company), and have been in touch with Mary over the years.

    My heart goes out to her.

  4. Molly Hogan says:

    MindFreedom International is advocacy group for these issues.

  5. Toni Samanie says:

    I am so sorry for all that have lost and are continuing to lose people due to Big Pharma and the constant bombardment of propaganda. The truth will come out! Find us at Prescription Drug Dangers on Facebook to be with like-minded people. We will organize. We will never stop sharing the truth. We must honor those who have gone on before us.

  6. Marv Brilliant says:

    These bastards at the University of Minnesota should be hung!!

  7. Andrea says:

    There is no greater violation of Cuvul Rights than death. Has anyone tried the Department of Justice? It would be a violation of their protections under the ADA, 504 of the rehab Act. and the Olmsted ruling of the Supreme Court.

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