Category Archives: Mental Health

The Case for Electroshocking Mia

An elderly woman, with the support of her family, has been struggling to avoid forced psychiatric treatment at the hands of Vancouver Island Health Authority doctors.

When I arrived at the prearranged location, Michelle met me at the door. “Sorry, I didn’t want to tell you on the phone,” she said. “Now we’re going to go to where Mia really is.”

We drove through the winding suburban roadways, and it felt like I was being taken into remote mountains of Central America for a secret meeting with el Comandante of the guerrilleros. I was actually on my way to interview an 82-year-old Victoria woman named Mia, described by friends and family as quiet, sophisticated and loving. Mia hadn’t threatened anyone or broken any laws, but she was on the run—from her doctor and the Vancouver Island Health Authority. And this tense drama had come to epitomize the challenges, and frightening dangers, of enforcing powerful mental health laws that are guided by woefully weak science. Read the rest at Focus online.

Forced Drugging of Seniors Still Increasing

Ombudsperson, BCCLA and Greens criticize BC’s draconian laws.

I WAS READING THE CORONER’S REPORT on Kathleen Palamarek and something didn’t seem right. I’d been following her story since 2006. This was a diminutive, timid, 88-year-old nursing home resident with dementia and a heart condition, who’d been somewhat controversially diagnosed with dementia-related psychosis. She’d died of a heart attack. The coroner had found the antipsychotic olanzapine in her body.

Palamarek hadn’t been taking olanzapine willingly; she’d frequently complained about feeling woozy and “drugged up.” She couldn’t refuse the drug, though, because her doctors had declared her incapable and, when she’d protested, they’d certified her under BC’s Mental Health Act (MHA). Antipsychotics are being used increasingly in seniors’ homes as chemical restraints to pacify and control people. But Health Canada has issued the highest possible warnings to doctors that antipsychotics are “not approved for the treatment of patients with dementia-related psychosis” and that these powerful tranquillizers have been linked to a near-doubling of death rates in the elderly, mostly from heart attacks.

Yet here’s what coroner Stan Lajoie wrote about Kathleen Palamarek’s heart attack: “Death was clearly and unequivocally due to natural causes.” There was not so much as a hint anywhere in his seven-page report that her heart attack might have been linked to a drug known to dramatically increase heart attacks in the heart-weakened elderly. Why?

Click here for the rest of the article in April’s Focus magazine.

BCCLA takes a Mental Health position!

My heartfelt congratulations to the BC Civil Liberties Association for finally updating their mental health policy after 30 years!

I’ve criticized them publicly in the past for their lack of activism on the civil rights of patients, and I want to be the first one to congratulate them now. Here’s the position, written by member of the BCCLA board Dr. Muriel Groves and apparently adopted by BCCLA February, 2011, though not posted on their website until this week:
http://www.bccla.org/positions/patients/12BC-Mental-Health-System.pdf

I wish they’d reviewed the Yukon’s mental health legislation as a comparison instead of Ontario’s, because the Yukon’s is even better, but this position strikes at most of the key issues: BC needs laws that more clearly articulate when you can and cannot be stripped of your rights, and allow you to refuse psychosurgery (like lobotomies), write an Advance Directive, designate a substitute decision maker, and accept incarceration without forced drugging if you so desire.

Kathleen’s Demise: a cautionary tale

There’s much to learn about BC’s laws and eldercare system from the last years of Kathleen Palamarek’s life in a local nursing home—especially from the battles that were fought in her name between her children, care providers and the Vancouver Island Health Authority.

 

It was a small but important epitaph for a much-loved woman. NDP West Kootenay MLA Katrine Conroy spoke in the provincial legislature in June in support of a public inquiry into the recent “suspicious death” of Kathleen Palamarek, an 88-year-old resident of Broadmead Lodge in Saanich.

During Lois Sampson née Palamarek’s five-year struggle to help get her mother out of the nursing home, Kathleen became an icon to local seniors advocates. That’s why the Saanich Peninsula Health Association, Vancouver Island Association of Family Councils, Old Age Pensioners Organization local, and others have been blitzing politicians, media and public agencies with requests for an inquiry.

“[T]he suspected abuse was due to overmedication, and the family needs answers,” said Conroy.

Yet the story involves much more than possible improper medicating; I’ve been following it since 2006. Kathleen’s life, and now death, is a tragic example of how our outdated guardianship laws summarily declare seniors “incapable” and thereby turn them into battle zones over which families, health professionals and others fight for control amidst an increasingly troubled eldercare system.

Read more.

Robert Whitaker on the Dangers of Psychiatric Drugs

The author of Anatomy of an Epidemic speaks in Victoria, Canada on May 17, 2011. Whitaker overviews the past 30 years of scientific research into psychiatric medications, showing how the drugs seem to be creating the very chemical imbalances they’re supposed to cure, and why they’re so dangerous in long-term use. For more info, see here. If you’d like to join a group of people based in Victoria, BC working on these issues, email rob (at) robwipond (dot) com .