Sunday, October 10, 2010

State Hospitals and Brick Walls

In my search for my grandmother, Lola, I have hit the dreaded brick walls again. I have been able to find and make contact with living family members that I never knew existed, and am now waiting to hear back from them. I hope that they might know something about my grandmother, but I am also looking forward to learning about the family that I never knew, whether or not anyone knows about my grandmother.

Today, I decided that my next recourse is to yet again, reach out to Metropolitan State Hospital (Norwalk State Hospital). This time I shall do it in writing. I have followed their instructions in the past – instructions to contact them, but to no avail. All I was told was that I’d need a court order. When I asked how to go about obtaining that dreaded court order, no one is willing to tell me.

I need to write this letter and take a day or two off, go to the hospital and hand it to someone, someone that I can actually make eye contact with. Someone that can look me in the eye and tell me that I need to get a court order. You see, according to their instructions:

Unfortunately, due to state and federal confidentiality laws, information that can be disclosed is strictly limited. In most cases, these confidentiality laws prevail over any request for patient records from an entity, including family member, other than the patient him/herself, even if the patient is deceased.

I can’t help but wonder just who these laws protect. I somehow doubt the patient is the protected party here. Patients in the past, were easily committed and then subject to hideous treatments (shock treatment and the like) and oftentimes were women, committed by spouses that just didn’t want to deal with them when they felt the need to stray. I also wonder if women that were abandoned by their spouses, left penniless, to fend for themselves and their children were subject to state hospital induction. Imagine having children, no income, and spouse that split. That might lead the neighbors to think your behavior is “crazy” and you just might need to be taken away.

All this aside, there is no reason to prevent family members from having information. My grandmother did live and she was in a state hospital. I CANNOT find any indication of her life beyond a 1932 city directory yet I know she was alive after that. The last time my father said he saw her was when she was in the hospital and at the urging of his first wife. I figure that was between 1939 and 1942 as they married in 1940 and were divorced by 1942. I cannot find my grandmother’s death certificate. It is possible (yet I am not convinced) that she was released from the hospital and moved away or remarried and died under a different name. Of course, I feel, I will never know this if I cannot get any information from the hospital.

All I can say is that I hope just one of these employees has the same experience and realizes what it is like being absolutely denied any information. Yet, on the other hand I know that they’d know how to avoid their own tricks and get information they needed. What a shitty system.

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