FBI’s Eagleton files show no health details leaked


Posted on 29th December 2008 by Gordon Johnson in Uncategorized

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Date: 12/29/2008

ST. LOUIS (AP) — A newspaper review of more than 1,000 pages of internal FBI documents on Thomas Eagleton found no evidence that the agency leaked information about his treatment for depression, a revelation that ended his vice presidential campaign.

The public disclosure of his mental illness and shock therapy forced him to withdraw as Democrat George McGovern’s running mate in 1972. Some questioned whether the FBI, which had kept tabs on Eagleton since the 1950s, had shared his medical information to the media or others.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch requested Eagleton’s FBI file through the Freedom of Information Act after the former Missouri attorney general and U.S. senator’s death in March 2007. In a report published Sunday, the newspaper said it found no direct evidence countering the FBI’s longtime denials that it had gathered information on Eagleton’s treatment or had provided that information to others.

“Our records show the FBI conducted no such investigation: received no request for such an investigation and had no information regarding Senator Eagleton’s medical history,” one memo stated.

The documents indicate the agency didn’t find out about Eagleton’s psychiatric treatment until after he revealed the details himself during a news conference after his nomination.

During the next 18 months, FBI officials ordered at least three internal reviews to ensure the agency had played no role in the incident. All said they found no evidence of wrongdoing.

“This would be a pretty strong piece of evidence that the bureau certainly believed it was not the source of the information,” said FBI historian John Fox, who reviewed Eagleton’s file for the newspaper. “The FBI appeared pretty convinced those records had not come from the bureau.”

But Gary Hart, the former Colorado senator who served as McGovern’s campaign director in 1972, said the memos could have been the agency covering its tracks. President Richard Nixon’s administration was known for using government power against his political foes.

“Given the context of the times, I would discount the internal memoranda heavily,” Hart said. “It’s very possible that somebody at the middle levels may have been involved in things that the people at the top knew nothing about.”

The FBI began a file on Eagleton in February 1958, apparently after the young prosecutor — speaking to colleagues while in a Las Vegas coffee shop — criticized an FBI fingerprint examiner’s testimony for helping derail the prosecution’s case in a St. Louis robbery trial. One of the others at the table worked for the FBI and Eagleton’s slight made it all the way to FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover.

The agency withheld at least 28 pages from the newspaper, citing privacy, and others had portions redacted to protect confidential informers, investigative methods and the secrecy of grand jury proceedings.

Campaign aide Edward Filippine said he doesn’t believe the FBI was involved and doesn’t think Eagleton did either.

He said Eagleton later learned the name of a health care worker who he believed leaked his treatment to the media, but he didn’t retaliate against the person and wouldn’t allow others to, either.

“What was revealed was the truth,” Filippine said. “That was something which Tom never hid. He took the position that what is, is, and I’m not going to jump on anyone else’s back for saying it.”

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.

Brain Injury and Depression


Posted on 29th October 2008 by Gordon Johnson in Uncategorized

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When we think of the impact that brain injury has on a person, it is often the ability to process, record and recover information that comes to the forefront. We focus on the thought processes or problems in memory first, and the emotional aspects of brain injury last. However, depression is a significant and debilitating factor in many brain injuries.

According to the Brain Injury Association of America, significant depression will affect 6 out of 100 people in the general population. However, research has found that if TBI is involved this number may increase by ten times.

Lack of inhibition and compromised frustration levels can affect a brain injured individual’s ability to control anger. The same mechanisms can affect an individual’s emotional responses on many levels and emotional responses may become exaggerated or inappropriate.

Depression, however, is not only triggered by the physical changes in the person’s state.

“Many research studies show that post-TBI depression is associated with poorer rehabilitation outcomes, reduced activities of daily living, increased experience of failure, increased stress, reduced employment, more frequent divorce, increased family burden, reduced social-recreational activity, increased sexual problems, reduced life satisfaction and poorer health-related quality of life.”

Whether depression is triggered by the inability of the brain to cope with emotional signals or environmental changes which occur as a result of decreased functioning or whether it involves an actual chemical change in the brain, depression is a serious issue which needs to be addressed.

Individuals who were exceptionally high functioning before an injury occurred are often at a higher risk for depression because of their inability to achieve pre-injury functioning. A lack of ability to stay on task due to lower frustration levels, inability to multitask and diminished stamina can all contribute to a feeling of worthlessness when measuring themselves against their former selves. This process becomes a cycle between frustration and anger which can isolate the individual from previous social interactions.

It is accepted by the medical community that a feeling of being a burden on others and not being of value in the world can lead to suicidal ideation. When a formerly high functioning individual is placed in a situation which makes them dependent on a caregiver and removes them from pre-injury productivity, it can become a severe blow to self worth, which can lead to depression.

Depression is a highly treatable condition which requires admission that depression is present. This may or may not be possible if the brain injured person has no self awareness about their own emotional functioning. It is important that family members and caregivers understand the signs and symptoms and what they can do to help.

A brain injured person is more likely to self-medicate with alcohol and drugs in an attempt to cope with the changes which have occurred. Because they have a compromised system, they are more vulnerable to the use of substances which can escalate the problem. These issues may need to be addressed as well with a knowledgeable professional experienced in treating brain-injured individuals.

There is an excellent brochure available from the Brain Injury Association entitled “Coping with Depression after Traumatic Brain Injury” which describes the factors which may lead to depression and what the survivor and family can do to manage depression.

Gordon Johnson

Pa. widow sues US over Iraq vet-husband’s suicide


Posted on 7th October 2008 by Gordon Johnson in Uncategorized

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Date: 10/7/2008 10:58 PM

Associated Press Writer

PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ The widow of an Iraq war veteran who committed suicide while in outpatient care for depression at a Veterans Administration hospital has sued the federal government for negligence.

Tiera Woodward, 26, claims in her lawsuit that her late husband, Donald, sought treatment at a VA hospital in Lebanon after three failed suicide attempts but wasn’t seen by a psychiatrist for more than two months.

She says doctors were slow to diagnose her husband with major depression, and that once the diagnosis was made, a psychiatrist failed to schedule a follow-up meeting with her husband after he informed the doctor he had gone off his medication.

Donald Woodward killed himself in March 2006 at age 23.

“I intend to make them make changes,” said Donald Woodward’s mother, Lori Woodward. “I have too many friends whose kids are in Iraq. I have a nephew now in Iraq, in the same unit, and I can’t have my family go through this again.”

Alison Aikele, a VA spokeswoman in Washington, D.C., said the agency does not typically comment on pending litigation.

The lawsuit, filed in the Middle District of Pennsylvania, seeks an unspecified amount for funeral expenses, lost income and pain and suffering.

It echoes other lawsuits nationwide over VA mental-health services, despite legislation President Bush signed in November ordering improvements.

The family of Marine Jeffrey Lucey, also 23, has a federal suit pending in Massachusetts over his June 2004 suicide. And two veterans groups sued the VA in San Francisco seeking an overhaul of its health system, citing special concerns about mental health, but a judge dismissed the suit in June over venue issues.

More than 150,000 Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans have already sought mental health care from the VA, and another 200,000 have sought medical care, according to Veterans for Common Sense, one of the groups involved in the California lawsuit.

“Each tragic veteran suicide is yet another painful reminder of the human cost of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and VA’s abject failure to provide timely and appropriate mental health care,” said Paul Sullivan, the group’s executive director. “How many wake-up calls does (the) VA need?”

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.