Healthcare’s Castaways: Shipwreck of the Singular

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February 1, 2021 | 12 Comments


  1. The people best placed to grasp what is going wrong and force our ‘betters’ to justify the distinctions that have been bestowed on them are those whose lives have been touched by what is going wrong in healthcare.

    Shipwreck shows you how we got to the point of peril we are now at. It points to a Care that needs courage. A book won’t get us there. It needs you to engage and engage others.

    Some months ago, a very good friend who lectures and designs courses approached me for something to give her students as a listening project. The students, she calls the crème de la crème, are doing a course prior to entering medical school. I suggested David Healy’s TED Talk
    When she visited her caravan recently and we ploughed through the mud and water with her three Skye terriers, she said her students just loved the talk and were very positive about it.

    So proud of her that she sees the ‘big picture’, and that maybe these medical students will take away what needs to be a new future …

    • Greatly encouraged by this opportunity seized to enable these medical students to listen to, and discuss David Healy’s TED Talk.

      It would surely be of similar educational value to Vocational Trainees in General Practice, along with all the Samizdat Publications?

      Thank you Annie and ‘good friend’.

      • Tim, you may have heard that the UK now has a ‘Youth Mental Health Ambassador’ by the name of Dr Alex George who is from North Wales. I have contacted him via Twitter to raise his awareness of the role that ADs etc. can play in inducing suicidal thoughts and ‘akathisia’ in acting on those thoughts through to completed suicides. I feel we must jump at every chance that we find to bring this knowledge to the fore. ‘Nick’ added the akathisia video to my message too.

        • Thank you Mary.

          This is indeed so very important, especially seizing any and every opportunity to increase AKATHISIA AWARENESS.

  2. All I can say here is thank goodness for Samizdat and also for Amazon. Have just ordered now, hardback not available it seems but paperback version is – AND WILL BE DELIVERED BEFORE VALENTINE’S DAY! How wonderful if many took to ordering this to present to loved ones on that day! I couldn’t wait that long so have also ordered the Kindle version. A wet afternoon will be quite acceptable so that I can curl up with it.

    • Yes Daryl, the whole story seems to have a really divided following. The daughter is often being blamed for “not believing the doctors” etc. and should have accepted the way that her father was being diagnosed/treated. Others, of course (as we do) see the reality of his condition which worsened by being given additional drugs. Very many seem horrified that his salvation seemed to come from Russia!
      I don’t know Jordan Peterson’s work/ comments prior to this at all but there is yet another section who deem his suffering to be justified due to his past comments/behaviours.
      From our perspective – AKATHISIA IS VIEWED BY SUCH A WIDE AUDIENCE which surely must hit home with a good number of ‘viewers’.

  3. Mad in the UKMad in the UK
    New Campaign: Supporting Litigation Against Mental Health Services Protecting Harmful Psychiatric Practice
    By John Henden -16/01/20210995
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    People experiencing emotional distress and unusual psychological experiences, need protecting from the pathology-driven medical diagnostic approach, which has resulted in much untoward death and significant harm over the past half century.

    Within this blog, I will outline a new campaign to achieve long-term improvement within mental health services, which challenges employers of those who practise this outmoded model.

    Biomedical psychiatric practice, with its main vehicle of psychotropic drugs prescribing, causes harm: many lives lost and debilitating side effects from the consumption of these drugs. This is not about the profession of psychiatry as such – the same assumptions and practices are shared by most mental health professionals to some extent, and many psychiatrists themselves are concerned about these problems. It is about a whole paradigm that urgently needs to change.

    This new campaign is set to address this growing problem, which is now of epidemic proportions, by encouraging legal action against mental health partnership NHS trusts protecting biomedical psychiatric practice. One case has been won and we hope other successes will follow. CAPDA (Campaign Against Psychiatric Drug Abuse) is connecting with and supporting a growing body of aggrieved survivors of mental health services and grieving relatives and friends of those who did not survive. We call on others to get in touch via the contact details at the foot of this blog.

  4. I don’t have much optimism about this – but who knows?

    A patient safety commissioner—why we need a new voice for all harmed patients
    February 4, 2021
    The principal recommendation of the report is to create a new role of independent Patient Safety Commissioner (PSC), “… a person of standing who sits outside the healthcare system, accountable to Parliament…” who would “…be the patients’ port of call, listener and advocate, who holds the system to account, monitors trends, encourages and requires the system to act.” (be interesting to see who gets the job)

    The government response to the report got off to a slow start with Cumberlege describing the lack of progress as “woeful” in November last year. However, in December the government announced that the legislative basis for a new Patient Safety Commissioner would be incorporated in an amendment to the Medicines and Medical Devices Bill. These amendments have recently been published and were passed through the Commons on 27th January.
    The government’s accompanying factsheet describes the PSC as “…a champion for patients…to promote the safety of patients and the importance of the views of patients in relation to medicines and medical devices.”
    James Titcombe, Patient Safety Campaigner and co-founder of Harmed Patients Alliance.
    Joanne Hughes, Co-founder Harmed Patients Alliance, Author, Patient Safety Campaigner and Advocate for Restorative Healing Approaches after Healthcare Harm. Twitter: @Mothers_Inst_UK

  5. Solution-focused brief therapy
    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    I suspect this approach would be too late for most who kill themselves as a result of prescribed drugs but here is a bit more re above
    Have read a bit more about J H Amongst other projects ,He is massively involved in running training in prevention of suicide nationally and internationally using S F T He runs a consultancy – which claims unusually high levels of success in preventing suicide amongs the thousands of people he has trained. Not to say this may not be an eggageration over decades of work in multiple countries
    I.m always cautious about mentioning something I don’t know much about . there’s never been any mention on the blogs about John H which i would have expected some from some who comment or write and comment on suicide on the blogs His book which is heavily promoted is Preventing Suicide: The Solution Focused Approach
    JH does mention the part drugs play causing harms and suicide so have written to ask if he could give more information resulting from his decades of experience The litigation he is proposing (above) is on a no win no fee basis but there’s no info as to whether he or his business takes a fee.

    John Henden
    John Henden Consultancy Ltd
    BA(Hons) RMN Dip Couns(Univ of Bristol) MBACP FRSA

  6. I appreciate your expertise and invaluable knowledge on Ted talk, David. This educational discourse is of substantial value to existing practitioners and those embarking on a career in medicine and other health related careers. Thank you David for sharing and debating your concerns.

    As for Mikhaila voicing her concerns about her dads (Dr Peterson) situation, I am sorry that daughter and father had to pay the price for speaking the truth.
    To mistreat people when they have been harmed by psych meds, is a travesty of justice.
    People, before they judge should have all the facts before they gaslight peoples mental integrity.
    I am delighted to hear that your dad is recovering from akathisia, since he has stopped ingesting benzo diazepam. It is a very slow and unbearable road to recovery. I am glad Dr Peterson has a brave, intelligent and courageous daughter, advocating on her poor dads behalf.
    The Peterson family had enough insight and common sense to do the right thing for their dad.
    Once you have your health ruined, some practitioners twist and distort the truth. This is to make you look like you are crazy to the outside world. (The psyc meds are never to blame!)
    Misdiagnosis is part of the modus operandi, some practitioners use. People can die from akathisia and go through hell. It makes them suicidal. These medicines are very dangerous!
    Thank you Mikhaila and Dr Peterson for, for putting yourself out there and speaking the truth and creating an awareness that is second to none.
    The press and others concerned have got to be accountable for misconstrued information and ruining peoples lives.
    Bless you and your father for setting the records straight.
    Mikhaila and Dr Peterson, please stay strong.
    It seems like the whole culture of medicine, journalism and Law, needs to change to keep up with those who are ahead of their time.
    It is sad how a lot of people don’t care!
    The crisis the psyc meds induce is always blamed on another health condition.

  7. Call for coroners to record prescription drug use
    By Rory Winters, 24 March 2021

    Stephen O’Neill, the 48-year-old Coalisland man who took his own life in the summer of 2016.

    THE niece of a County Tyrone man, who took his own life, is calling for coroners to record all the prescription medication a person has been taking in the period prior to their death.

    Coalisland man, Stephen O’Neill, died in July 2016, less than two months after he suffered an adverse reaction to an antidepressant called Sertraline (also known as Zoloft).

    While the coroner at Mr O’Neill’s inquest stated that the Sertraline “possibly contributed” to his death, his consumption of this drug was not recorded on his death certificate.

    This has led Mr O’Neill’s niece, Colleen Bell, to campaign for change to the coronial system to ensure all the pharmaceutical drugs a person has been taking in the lead-up to their death, are officially recorded by coroners.

    All unnatural deaths, including both drug and suicide deaths, must be reported to coroners.

    However, Ms Bell is concerned that the current system doesn’t allow for “possible links”, between prescribed antidepressant medication and suicide, to be “fully known”.

    Mr O’Neill, a brother-in-law of Sinn Féin deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill, was prescribed Sertraline after he informed his GP that he was suffering with mild anxiety.

    He began taking the drug on a Thursday. Ms Bell told The Detail: “By Friday night, Stephen was so agitated that he started feeling suicidal.”

    On Saturday morning, Mr O’Neill went to his pharmacist to explain how much his mental state had deteriorated since he took the Sertraline. The pharmacist called the out-of-hours doctor who told him to stop taking the drug.

    Mr O’Neill’s family called a crisis team for advice and the 48-year-old musician then voluntarily admitted himself into the Bluestone Unit, a psychiatric facility in Craigavon.

    In the weeks before his death, Mr O’Neill continued to be prescribed a range of drugs, from various sources, in an effort to improve his mental health.

    However, his family now believe he would have been in a healthier state of mind had he stayed away from those drugs.

    Ms Bell said: “In the last six weeks of his life, Stephen had been prescribed Sertraline; a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), Quetiapine; an antipsychotic drug, Mirtazapine; a serotonergic drug, and other drugs such as Diazepam, Propranolol and Zopiclone.”

    The last drug that he was prescribed before his death was Busiprone which is used to treat anxiety disorders.

    Ms Bell said: “Stephen was poly-drugged. He had been on a real cocktail which just seemed to exacerbate his symptoms.

    “His mental state deteriorated massively from the point that he was prescribed the Sertraline.”

    Dr David Healy is an Irish psychiatrist, working in the Department of Family Medicine at McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada, who has examined Mr O’Neill’s medical history.

    He was also the expert witness for the family at Mr O’Neill’s June 2019 inquest.

    Dr Healy told The Detail: “It was very clear that after a few pills of Zoloft (Sertraline), the drug had an immediate, toxic effect on him. It was clear that it caused him to feel agitated and suicidal.

    “In the hospital, Stephen then explained what had happened to him and they semi-listened, in that they recorded his view, but they didn’t take him seriously enough.”

    Dr Healy added that if they had taken Mr O’Neill “more seriously”, the doctors would have suggested keeping him drug free for a while, but instead they “threw drugs at him”.

    He said: “Stephen was handing it to them on a plate, he explained what the drug was doing to him, but they weren’t listening.

    “Six weeks later, he ended up dead. It seemed to me a very clear-cut case and I was happy to get involved, and to argue the case.”

    However, while Coroner Patrick McGurgan said the Sertraline “possibly contributed with other identified stressors” to Mr O’Neill’s death, none of the drugs which he was prescribed were recorded on his death certificate as causing or contributing to his death.

    Ms Bell said: “The coronial system should be reformed so that coroners have to, in some way, record and later compile, in an archive, all the pharmaceutical drugs which people have been taking in the lead-up to their death – including antidepressants prescribed by doctors.

    “This would mean it’s not just the drugs which are recorded on death certificates, as causing or contributing to deaths, that we can draw statistics from.”

    Stephen O’Neill (second from the right) pictured with his siblings.
    Stephen O’Neill (second from the right) pictured with his siblings.


    In 2016, The Detail reported that prescription drugs featured on more death certificates than illegal drugs in Northern Ireland over a ten-year-period.

    However, because of the limitations in the coronial system, Coroner Joe McCrisken explained that the number of pharmaceutical drug-linked deaths was much greater than official statistics showed.

    For instance, Coroner McCrisken told The Detail he oversaw the inquest of a man who took his own life “when under the influence of Diazepam that he had bought illegally”.

    He added: “The dose wasn’t enough to kill him but it was enough to make him feel that he wanted to self-harm or try to take his own life.

    “In that case Diazepam didn’t go on the death certificate. Diazepam will be picked up in the toxicology report, it will be picked up in the post-mortem, but it won’t be recorded on the death certificate as a cause of death.”

    Coroner McCrisken said he was, therefore, “confident” that the connection between certain prescription drugs and suicide is a “much bigger problem” than the figures suggested.

    Unlike in the example referenced by Coroner McCrisken, neither Stephen O’Neill’s toxicology report, nor his post-mortem report, showed any of the drugs he had been prescribed, in the lead-up to his death, as being in his system when he took his own life.

    However, guidance from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) – a statutory UK agency which produces ‘evidence-based guidance and advice for health, public health and social care practitioners’ – states that insomnia, depression, nightmares, agitation and anxiety are common or very common side effects of SSRIs, which Sertraline is.

    NICE guidance adds that psychotic disorders, paranoia and suicidal thoughts are also possible side effects of SSRI drugs.

    Ms Bell told us it’s these issues which are “more relevant” to her uncle’s case than “toxicity levels”.

    The Lord Chief Justice’s Office told The Detail: “In the case of a drug-related death, if any drug (illicit or otherwise) has caused or contributed to the death (confirmed by way of a post-mortem report with a toxicological analysis) the specific drug, if identified, is included in the formulation.

    “If there is more than one drug involved then the cause of death may read multi-drug toxicity without specifically identifying each and every drug, but each case is fact specific.”

    However, the Lord Chief Justice’s Office declined to comment on proposals for changes to the coronial system, citing that it is not responsible for legislation.

    The Southern Health and Social Care Trust told The Detail: “Whilst we are unable to comment on any individual, the trust did participate fully in the inquest process regarding Stephen’s death and we accept the coroner’s findings.”

    The Department of Justice (DoJ) and the Department of Health (DoH) both declined to comment on issues raised in this article.

    Ms Bell said: “They are all passing the buck. It’s very frustrating. Really, it will require political action.”

    Sinn Féin Mid-Ulster MLA Linda Dillon told The Detail her party is engaged in the “formative stages” of discussions in relation to these issues.

    She added: “The DoH needs to have a statistical breakdown regarding prescription medication and suicide, which could come from coroners recording all prescription medication the person had been taking in the time leading up to their passing.

    “We need to establish that data to see if there are patterns between suicide and a certain profile of person being on particular prescription drugs.”

    Ms Bell has had some engagement with Mental Health Champion Siobhan O’Neill about her uncle’s case, though she hopes to progress this further in the coming months.

    She also runs a Facebook page in her uncle’s memory, called Stephen’s Voice, which has around 9,000 likes.

    The page says: “We are not medical professionals, we are Stephen’s family and are here to tell Stephen’s story and raise awareness of serious adverse reactions to prescribed medications, particularly antidepressants.”

    Ms Bell added that suicide rates and prescription rates for antidepressants, and antipsychotics, are both “so high” in Northern Ireland.

    She said: “To better understand potential correlations between the two issues, there needs to be change in the coronial system.

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