Minnesota mental health patient Ray Sandford forced into electro-shock therapy

Sandford says repeatedly: "I don't want to do this"

But on May 12, a knock sounded outside Sandford's door. It was his caretakers. They had come to raid his refrigerator.


THE NEXT DAY, Sandford emerges from his front door to a familiar sight: an idling white bus. He slowly steps forward, his four-pronged cane gripping warm asphalt.

Lou Fancher and Steve Johnson
Ray Sandford
photo by Daryl Trones
Ray Sandford

He doesn't want to do this. He's told them repeatedly he doesn't want to do this.

He climbs inside the bus and takes a seat. A hiss sounds as the bus's brakes release.

He arrives at Mercy Medical Clinic and is taken to the fifth floor. An IV is inserted. Sandford is less than two minutes from undergoing his 43rd ECT when a doctor approaches him.

"Mr. Sandford, it looks like we're going to postpone today's treatment," he says. "Sorry for the inconvenience."

Unbeknownst to Sandford, his mother had, for the past 48 hours, placed dozens of calls to Mercy's ECT Unit. Her words were concise and persuasive.

"His doctor has given up on him," she told anyone who would listen. "I'm a retired nurse. And I know for a fact you cannot give ECT without a doctor's order."

It's unclear whether Sandford will have to go through with more ECT or who his new doctor will be. Marilyn and a friend are in the process of finding a psychiatrist.

As for Ray Sandford, his appraisal of last week's surprising turn is characteristically nonchalant.

"I felt a whole lot better after they told me I wouldn't have to go through with it," he says. "But I wish they would have told me earlier, instead of having to go through all the trouble. They knew I didn't want to do this."

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