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Compulsory Drug Therapy
I say that this letter is the only avenue left to save my daughter's life, because all other avenues are closed to her. The Mental Health Review Board, to which my daughter appealed several times, is in reality acting as a rubber stamp for the treating psychiatrist. I appealed to it, on behalf of my daughter, but it pays attention to and trusts whatever the treating psychiatrist says, no matter how great are the suffering of the patient. Any appeal to VCAT is likely to meet with the same attitude.
I tried to appeal to the Chief Psychiatrist, and asked him to use his authority according to the Mental Health Act, and to revoke the Compulsory Treatment Order (CTO) over my daughter, but he refused. Instead, in his letter to me, dated October 2, 2006, he concluded with the following advice:
"I continue to believe that the best way to address your concerns is for you to try and collaborate with Rebecca's treating clinicians to achieve some form of working relationship in her best interests."
Following that advice I made contact with the treating psychiatrist as well as the manager of the Support Team. Last Friday, October 6th, concluding our phone conversation, Dr. Coulson, the treating psychiatrist, advised me to e-mail him with my arguments in support of my daughter, which I did (see the copy of my synopsis below) and e-mailed to him last night. Today, October 9th, he ordered Rebecca to the Clinic, only to tell her that he orders a further increase of the Clozapine dose: from 350mg per day to 375mg per day.
This is very close to a death sentence for my daughter Rebecca, because she could not cope with the Clozapine even when the dose was 200mg per day. She openly told me then that she would rather die than that continue to suffer under the Clozapine.
Such an attitude by Dr. Coulson shows that he not only is he holding my daughter in contempt - with complete disregard to the disastrous consquences of his decison/action - but he also disregards the Chief Psychiatrist's instruction of collaboration with the patient and with her father.
I therefore implore you to urgently intervene in the matter, so as to save my daughter's life before it is too late!
Sincerely, Benjamin Merhav Melbourne, Australia
My letter/synopsis for Dr. Coulson:
Dear Dr. B. Coulson,
Following our phone conversation today, October 6th, I have prepared the following synopsis in support of Miss Rebecca Merhav's demands/needs. She urgently needs to be taken off the CTO, have her Clozapine intake reduced gradually, to the minimum, under your supervision, so as to eventually eliminate it completely, and be allowed to take up alternative drug-free therapy, detoxify her body and return to normal life.
Christmas 1977 was the worst day in my daughter's life. It was shortly after she turned 15 that she was caught up in a domestic tangle, not of her making, to be referred wrongly to a psychiatric ward for "observation", following her mother's complaints. Those complaints were based on Rebecca's refusal to do the house chores as required by the mother. There was absolutely nothing wrong with Rebecca, but the mere referral by the diagnosing psychiatrist was taken, apparently, to be a positive diagnosis of mental illness.
Upon her arrival she was immediately required to consume a psychiatric drug, and when she refused, it was injected into her by force. Her refusal, by itself, was considered as a "worsening of her mental illness," therefore more injections followed with higher dosage of neuroleptics. She then absconded, but only to get herself into worse trouble, because the abrupt termination of the neuroleptics played havoc on her brain (see Dr. Breggin below who says, on page 16, "All psychiatric drugs can cause problems during withdrawal"), and when returned to the ward her treating doctor considered her crisis as a "deterioration of her psychotic illness."
An Australian government website, of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, on April 21st this year, published a report titled, Psychiatry Manual Linked to Drug Money, which proves that the diagnosis manual for psychiatrists was financed by the drug corporations. Could it be that the first wrong diagnosis of my daughter was due to the guidlines by such a manual?
Furthermore, the financial interests of drug corporations require that compulsory drug treatment be entrenched and widespread so as to maximise their profits. It is well known that the level of drug corporations' profits is so high at present, that it is second only to the armament industry level of profits.
In any case, 29 years of compulsory "treatment" have not produced any beneficial results for my daughter, and therefore proved to be completely unnecessary. Moreover, most of the neuroleptic drugs she was forced to take have since been declared harmful by the psychiatric profession itself, and are not in use any longer, leaving my daughter with the pain, the trauma, and possibly damaged vital organs (like her liver and her kidneys, but hopefully not her brain) as a result of so much intake of potent and harmful chemicals.
The experience and research done by the USA veteran psychiatrist, Dr. Peter Breggin, proves that most neuroleptics given to psychiatric patients are harmful rather than helpful (to some people more than to others, of course). However, the drug corporations have produced misleading advertising to sell their harmful drugs.
In his book, Your Drug May Be Your Problem: How and Why to Stop Taking Psychiatric Drugs, (Perseus Books - Reading, Massachusetts - 1999), Dr. Breggin says:
"Precisely because there is so little scientific backing for the use of psychiatric drugs, mystification and slogans are often communicated to doctors by drug advertising, and then to patients by doctors" (p. 112-123).
On page 37, he says that "Despite a hugely successful promotional campaign by drug companies and biological psychiatry, the effectiveness of most or all psychiatric drugs remains difficult to demonstrate. The drugs often prove no more effective than sugar pills, or placebos - and to accomplish even these limited positive results, the clinical trials and data that they generate typically have to be statistically manipulated."
The question then begs itself: why force a patient to consume a drug which does no good, when the patient is not dangerous - not to herself and not to others? - and therefore with no public interest in the matter, even if the patient is mentally ill, let alone in a case of wrong diagnosis like the case of my daughter?
On page 77, Dr. Breggin says that even when a patient is diagnosed as psychotic then neuroleptic drugs do not eliminate the psychotic symptoms:
"Contrary to claims, neuroleptics have no specific effects on irrational ideas (delusions) or perceptions (hallucinations). Like all other psychiatric drugs, they have the same impact on healthy animals, healthy volunteers, and patients - namely, the production of apathy and indifference."
Moreover, the neuroleptics do have harmful effects. Here are some of harmful effects mentioned by Dr. Breggin in his above book:
"Neuroleptic drugs cause brain damage evidenced by a movement disorder called tardive dyskinesia, but Neuroleptics actually suppress the symptoms of tardive dyskinesia while the disease is developing. ...The rates of TD [tardive dyskinesia] are extremely high. Many standard textbooks estimate a rate of 5% - 7% per year in healthy young adults [who are taking neuroleptic drugs]. The rate is cumulative so that 25% - 35% of patients [taking neuroleptics] will develop the disorder in 5 years of treatment. Among the elderly [taking neuroleptics], rates of TD reach 20% or more per year. For a variety of reasons, including the failure to include tardive akathisia in estimates, the actual rates are probably much higher for all patients". (p. 78)
On page 79: "So-called antipsychotic or neuroleptic drugs cause a fatal disease called neuroleptic malignant syndrome in up to 2.4% of people taking them. Using a low-end rate of 1 percent, Maxmen and Ward (1995, p. 33) estimate that 1,000 - 4,000 deaths occur in America each year as a result of neuroleptic malignant syndrome. The actual number is probably much greater."
On page 81: "Neuroleptic, also known as antipsychotic or major tranquilizer drugs subject almost every system in the body to impairment. Research, including a recent study, indicates that these drugs are toxic to cells in general."
The most dangerous of all the neuroleptics is, of course, the Clozapine (Clozaril), the drug which Rebecca has been forced to take for more than a year now. Here is what Dr. Breggin says at page 82:
"Clozaril ... was banned in some European countries because it caused so many fatalities; but the escalating power of drug companies subsequently led to its approval by the FDA" in the United States.
There are, of course, many more deadly risks that any consumer of Clozapine takes, such as diabetes, heart attacks, epilepsy, severe constipation, etc. but in the case of Rebecca her immeidate and daily sufferings (chronic insomnia, back pain, pain in bones and joints, etc.) make her daily life unbearable, and this is tantamount to torture! It certainly cannot be considered a medical treatment!
So this is her situation now, under the Clozapine, but she has been suffering for 29 years now! Twenty nine years of trauma, torture, humiliation, degradation and loss of the 29 best years of her life! Now it is already too late for her, for example, to have children and create her own family. Under such circumstances no one can function better than a human wreck. Why punish her for the rest of her life too? Why force on her the risks of death?
Knowing my daughter I am hopeful that she is still a very capable and talented person. It is the compulsory drug treatment, the traumatic incarcerations, and her betrayal by her own mother that turned her disabled, a psychiatrically disabled person. Yet, despite her sufferings, despite the limitations imposed on her by the Clozapine, she never lost her hope and her will to return to normal life. She has been looking for a job, any work which would be available to her. She has been interested in various courses to study and improve her qualifications, and she has made many enquiries regarding her possible participation in such courses. She wants to live a normal life! Why deny her any chance to live a normal life?
Obviously, the only way to help her - indeed the only way to save her life! - is to gradually reduce her intake of Clozapine, revoke the CTO, and eventually allow her to take up drug-free alternative treatment (which was offered to her in Adelaide), to detoxfy her body, to return to society as an active member, to make friends and to live a normal life, the life she wants to live!
She badly needs physical activities (which she likes very much, like swimming, tennis, netball); she badly needs friends to break through her isolation, but the Clozapine makes these important needs impossible for her to achieve. She has all the needs of any normal adult and there is no rational reason to deny fulfilment of her needs to her! Why torture her instead for the rest of her life?
The answer to the argument that she needs drug treatment because "she is sick" - and without debating the validity of this argument! - is that OK, having been been taken off the drugs and then - in the worst case - facing a crisis again, it would never be too late to return to the psychiatric ward anywhere, and to resume the drug treatment, if there is no realistic alternative.
To close my appeal I would add this very important piece of informatiom:
Around 1995, when Rebecca was getting treatment at Southen Clinic, in Moorabbin, her neuroleptic intake was on the minimum level. That followed her past demands, at the previous clinic at Albert Park, demands which I strongly supported, to start reducing her dose of neuroleptics intake. At first the treating doctors refused to even consider our demands, but then they decided to give it a try, and lo and behold the experiment did work. With each reduction Rebecca felt better and her performance improved too.
So when she was moved to the Southern Clinic (because of changing her residence) she was on the lowest level of the neuroleptic. We then asked the treating woman psychiatrist in the Southern clinic to take her off the drug altogether, and she arranged for a meeting with us so that she could consider our request. It was about an hour long meeting at the end of which the treating psychiatrist turned to me and said: "I do not see any reason why she should be on any (psychiatric) drug."
Upon hearing the good news Rebecca became very happy, and I could hardly catch up with her, as she was dancing (rather than walking) all the way back to her home. However, her happiness did not last long, because she tried to share it with her mother. The mother, who befriended an Israeli psychiatrist in Waiora Clinic, followed his instructions. That psychiatrist turned out to be a bad man as well as a bad doctor.
He told Rebecca's mother that Rebecca should not be allowed to stop taking psychiatric drugs, and he offered his "help" by instructing the mother to get Rebecca moved immediately to Waiora Clinic under his "care." Rebecca, hardly a couple of weeks in Waiora Clinic, was told to take the Clozapine as the new "medication" for her, or else. She refused, of course, and that bad doctor then ordered the police to pick her up from home and drop her at the Heatherton Hospital, where he was in charge of the involuntary unit.
To cut the story short, he failed to force the Clozapine on Rebecca, as I was strongly opposed to, of course, to this new psychiatric atrocity against my daughter. However, he kept torturing her with the dangerous Risperdal, instead of Clozapine, for the first few years that Rebecca was obliged to get "treatment" at the Waiora Clinic.
I could go on to tell you how Dr. Robert Shields bungled her treatment during the last two years in Waiora, but I won't. However, it is important to let you know that after her first incarceration at the Alfred, in July 2005, he did agree to gradually lower her Clozapine dose to 100mg, and with good results.
However, he bungled the treatment by ordering her to take Effexor as well, and when he realized his mistake, he withdraw the Effexor abruptly. The inevitable result was that Rebecca was plunged into a crisis of her doctor's making. Yet he continued his bungle by considering her crisis as a relapse, and by instantly doubling her Clozapine intake! All of which made things worse for her, and yet Dr. Shields blamed her crisis on her "being very sick," rather than admit that he was wrong, and try to correct his own mistakes.
Looking forward to your reply, Benjamin Merhav.
Posted: October 14, 2006