If You’re Going To Look After Patients, Man Up

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December 12, 2012 | 5 Comments


  1. “The blood of these children is on your hands. To continue to blame the victim rather than the drug is wrong.”

    This was the introduction to Dr. David Healy’s Facebook post this morning. The words were familiar. They belong to Mathy Downing whose 12-year-old daughter Candace died by hanging four days after being put on Zoloft for ‘school anxiety.’ I met Mathy and several other bereaved parents at a conference in the States 18 months ago.

    Tonight I think of that evening at Julie Wood’s home when we first met, shared our stories of pharmaceutical malfeasance, created the Coalition for Physician and Surgeon Oversight; and made plans for a candlelight walk through downtown Toronto and a vigil in memory of the children who will never again be coming home for Christmas.

    For me there was a childhood memory of a ‘Lucia’ parade in Sweden — held on the 13th of December, the longest night of the year. The procession is led by a young woman in a long white robe tied with a red sash. She wears a crown of lingonberry leaves and seven lighted candles. She is accompanied by children also dressed in white, tinsel in their hair, holding candles and singing, ushering in the Christmas season and dispelling the darkness. The origins of the tradition are not in Sweden, but in Sicily and no one knows how they came to Scandinavia.

    I remember watching the Lucia procession in the university town of Uppsala as a three-year-old sitting on my father’s shoulders. He died on the 25th of December that year. A doctor made a mistake.

    Tomorrow night as we walk by candlelight through the streets of Toronto, the Scriptwriter in the Sky, the Creator, the Great Spirit, that which many of us call God; will smile on us. We will hold vigil in front of the headquarters of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario and remember those taken from us by those who once took an oath to do no harm. We will call out names and the Great Spirit will weep with us.

  2. Dear Maie — this procession sounds like a bold and beautiful action! I hope you take some pictures of it… if so, would you be willing to post them on RxISK with a brief account of the evening? I for one would love to see it, and it would raise all our spirits.

    Thanks so much.

  3. Thank you for your kind words. News of our vigil for child victims of pharmaceuticals was eclipsed by the events in Connecticut which left 20 families bereft of children. We will most likely find they and the young shooter were also victims of the adverse effects of pharmaceuticals. Photos of the Toronto vigil are at http://www.cpso.co under ‘Events.’ We have been in existence for just over a month. This was our first vigil. There were 20 of us. Some had to leave early, some from out of town arrived late. Some were camera shy. Some were still too grief-stricken to participate. We read out more than 30 messages of support – including tragic stories.

    Look at http://www.prescriptionsuicide.com/downingmedia.html for Candace Downing’s story. Look also at http://www.crespifamilyhope.org. http://www.mindfulcharity.ca/who-we-are/ is a new network which provides education about the role of diet, nutrition and lifestyle in children’s mental health.

  4. Beautiful pictures — I especially like the second-to-last, showing all of you gathered outside the Physicians & Surgeons of Ontario HQ with your signs. Best wishes for the new organization!

    In the wake of the awful tragedy at Sandy Hook, there have been many calls to make mental health services more available. Well, there are a lot of folks in the USA who are deprived of any access to mental health services … but that was clearly not the problem with Adam Lanza, and I hope some journalist will have the courage to point this out. He was from an upper middle class family, had a doting mother who was constantly taking him to doctors to resolve his “issues” (usually identified as mild autism or Asperger’s Syndrome) … and I would be absolutely astonished if he had not been on multiple drugs.

    There were some reports (“disputed” at this point) that he was on the antipsychotic drug Fanapt. Prescribing antipsychotics off-label to manage “irritability” in kids with some form of autism has gone mainstream for the past 10 years. What I did not realize was that the FDA had approved two AP’s for this purpose: Risperdal in 2006, and Abilify in 2009. The latter really makes me wonder: Abilify has a bigger record for causing “akathisia” or agitation than almost any other drug. A recipe for serious trouble.

    As for James Holmes, the Aurora CO shooter … not only was he under psychiatric care, but we now know this continued through at least June 11, 2012, about a month before the shooting. At that time he told his psychiatrist that he was fantasizing about killing a lot of people.


    There’s been some outcry focusing on why she did not exercise her legal right to have him detained for 72 hours for evaluation. A valid question — but I have to wonder, if she did not have him detained, what did she do about the problem? Up his meds? It’s possible James Holmes was a victim of something, but not of “lack of mental health services.”

  5. The Agony and the Ecstacy.
    Do you think this man, Adam Lanza, was on a shopping spree. Do you think he was living it up, in ecstacy, and having the best time of his life, releasing all his inner tensions, or do you think he was in agony and having the worst time of his life seeking some sort or anger and revenge for his own lost childhood?
    If his psychiatrists had engaged in ‘rational’ conversation with him, he might have explained to them that he was feeling ‘explosive.’
    Feeling ‘explosive’ is always poo pooed; it is the the same old story, the psychiatrist knows
    Well, clearly, they do not……………
    We all, suspected, the nurse, who commited suicide, on the receiving end of prank telephone calls to the Royal Hospital, was on anti-depressants. It appears her doseage was increased, and, so something pushed her over the edge. Probably an ssri, added to a mix of a lady in distress…….

    I wonder which one. Will we ever find out??

    There is so much to ponder, so much to discuss, so many questions………
    Isn’t this the fundamental job of a psychiatrist to do this……….we seem to be streets ahead of all of them……..I guess psychiatrists are just people, after all……..
    Isn’t it appalling not to trust anymore………….anyone, with your life………….

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