A Prescription For Murder?

I’ve just returned from holiday today and I found an e mail informing me that a star of this blog, Dr David Healy, appeared on a ‘Panorama’ programme, ‘A Prescription For Murder’, a few days ago. Naturally I watched the programme on catch-up.

Healy was doing pretty much what I thought that he would be doing – he was appearing in the guise of an ‘expert’, proffering his opinion that the consumption of a prescribed SSRI had caused someone to commit mass murder. The case featured in the programme was that of James Holmes, the PhD student from the University of Colorado who gunned down a load of people in a cinema a few years ago during a screening of a ‘Batman’ film. Healy went over to meet Holmes in prison after the murders and was happy to inform ‘Panorama’ that he definitely attributed Holmes’s killing spree to his use of the SSRI sertraline. Healy was not called to give evidence at Holmes’s trial – it was not explained why not – and Holmes’s plea of insanity was rejected by the jury. Holmes is now serving a sentence of thousands of years, one of those sentences that are sometimes handed down by American courts although everybody is well aware that no-one would ever live long enough to serve the sentence. A number of other ‘experts’ were featured on the programme as well. One was a psychiatrist who maintained that Holmes committed the murders because he was mentally ill and that his crimes were completely unrelated to sertraline, another pursued an argument that Holmes’s use of sertraline had disinhibited him sufficiently to commit the crimes and a Prof Peter Tyrer took the same line as Healy, ie. that sertraline was definitely responsible for causing Holmes to commit the murders. Holmes himself stated that he believed that sertraline caused him to commit the crimes.

Much of the programme was spent discussing Holmes’s alleged mental state, both before he got anywhere near murdering anyone and then in the weeks and days leading up to the murders. We heard much about his ‘social anxiety’ (presumably this meant that he was shy) his failure to embark upon a relationship with a woman until a relatively late age (he wasn’t 80 though, he must have been in his early or mid 20s) and his pursuit of a PhD in neuroscience because he knew that he was a bit messed up. Upon taking sertraline, he dyed his hair red, took some selfies whilst wearing coloured contact lenses and then began keeping notes which allegedly detailed his disintegrating psyche until the day that he gunned a load of people down. None of this was really very convincing. Scores of young men are shy and many people do not enter into sexual relationships until their twenties. Dying one’s hair really is not a sign of being unhinged (I had pink hair for a few years and I was always interested to note how many people told me that it was because I was bipolar – no, it was because I really liked having pink hair) and neither is wearing coloured contact lenses or taking selfies whilst gurning. As for doing a PhD in neuroscience – yes, it is very obvious that a lot of people who enter what Nikolas Rose calls the psy disciplines seem to do so in the hope of tackling their own problems (one look around the School of Psychology at Bangor University or indeed the Hergest Unit where Healy himself works will confirm that), but doing a PhD in neuroscience will have meant that James Holmes almost certainly had been exposed to the work of Healy and co who maintain that SSRIs can precipitate aggressive outbursts. So James Holmes might have been a young man with problems who then lost it completely after taking sertraline – or he might possibly have been someone who for reasons best known to himself was planning a massacre and thought that if he kept detailed notes documenting his own deteriorating mental state for a few weeks, notes that were consistent with the ideas of people who believe that SSRIs can cause violent outbursts, he might escape jail on a plea of insanity, especially if he could wheel out someone like David Healy as an expert witness. Healy’s views on SSRIs are well-known and he has held them for a very long time – a neuroscience PhD student would have to be a pretty poor student not to know about them.

The evidence presented on ‘Panorama’ was in no way sufficient to convince a viewer of anything really – Holmes might have been mentally ill or he might not; he might have reacted badly to sertraline or the changes in his mental state – if indeed there were any changes – might have been precipitated by something else. He might have suddenly developed a desire to make copious notes charting his mental state or this might have been a calculated action designed to enable him to produce those notes as ‘proof’ in the aftermath of a crime that he was planning. I am not aware that anyone has yet shown a statistical relationship between dying one’s hair, wearing contact lenses, taking selfies and murder.

So what we have to rely on here is the expertise and integrity of the experts – Healy and Tyrer. Can Healy and Tyrer’s expertise and integrity be relied upon?

My post ‘The Biggest Expert Of The Lot’ (as well as other associated posts) gives an account of some of the rampant research fraud and bad practice that I witnessed at the Hergest Unit in the early and mid-1990s when Healy et al claimed to be participating in cutting edge research. Healy’s blog makes reference to Nobel prize winners no less visiting the Hergest Unit. Er no, I never saw a Nobel prize winner there. I saw a bunch of utterly unscrupulous psychiatrists and their colleagues who were neglecting and abusing patients and some of those people were colluding with and even facilitating a paedophile ring that was known to be operating through the social services dept that employed some of that lot attending the ‘research seminars’. There was one high profile cutting edge researcher who did visit the Hergest Unit and that was Marius Romme, the psychiatrist who pioneered work on hearing voices. Marius Romme was working with Dr Phil Thomas who left the Hergest Unit a few years later.

Phil Thomas is the only member of staff who worked at the Hergest Unit at that time whose name does not appear on the documents now in my possession demonstrating that staff at the Hergest Unit were going to great lengths to have me prosecuted for crimes that they knew that I had not committed or declared dangerous and banged up without trial. The names of everybody else appears on those documents at some point – including Healy. Healy’s contribution was to order the staff to call the police and have me arrested if I approached the Hergest Unit for assistance. Healy was not my consultant and I did not know about the existence of this document until my lawyers retrieved it a few years later. Last year I e mailed dear old Healy via his blog to ask him to explain his actions, but I did not receive a reply. I know of another Hergest patient who was arrested on the orders of David Healy after this patient rang the Unit and told a nurse that he was so suicidal that he felt like chopping a gas pipe. He was taken to Walton Prison where he spent some weeks although he was never found guilty of any offence. David the radical!

During the ‘Panorama’ programme, Healy admitted that he sometimes prescribes SSRIs. However he stressed that if one sees unfortunate side-effects developing, one should stop increasing the dose immediately. The Hergest patient whom Healy had arrested for feeling like chopping a gas pipe was some years ago on SSRIs. Now this man believes, like Healy, that SSRIs CAN precipitate violence and aggression. He believes this because whilst he was in the Hergest Unit, after being prescribed SSRIs, he felt a level of aggression that he had never previously experienced and he threw a wardrobe across the room. He told his consultant psychiatrist – one of Healy’s colleagues – who told him not to be so ridiculous, of course it was nothing to do with the SSRIs. That particular consultant had attended all those research seminars with the putative Nobel prize winners. The same patient was prescribed SSRIs again a few years later. The prescribing psychiatrist continually increased the dose until the patient became so worried that he sought out information about the therapeutic levels of the SSRI concerned. He had been prescribed three times the maximum therapeutic dose. The prescribing psychiatrist was Richard Tranter, Healy’s friend and protégé, who like Healy is an ‘expert’ in psychopharmacology. But then Tranter prescribed me a combination of drugs some six years ago that was neurotoxic. I didn’t take them which made Tranter very cross but it probably kept me alive. A prescription for murder anyone?

Of course, Healy cannot be held responsible for the actions of his colleagues – although some of those actions of some of those colleagues have involved such serious negligence, malpractice and criminality that if Healy was anything like the public image that he trades on he’d have shopped them to the GMC or even the police by now. However, although Healy cheerily jets off around the world to dispense his words of wisdom to patients having problems with SSRIs when they have been prescribed by people unconnected with his colleagues, I’m wondering if he takes a rather different view if the problems erupt closer to home.

Some years ago I lived on a hill farm in Snowdonia with a farming family who had let out a caravan to a rather quiet man who told us all that he was involved in psychological research, although he didn’t seem to be attached to any university. The grandson of the farming family had a pet sheepdog, Rex. One day with no warning at all, the man in the caravan walked over to Rex with a carving knife and stabbed him to death. The farmer’s wife was the only person at home and was terrified, locked herself in the house, rang her husband and then me. By the time that we had all got back to the farm the man who killed Rex had been arrested by the police and was in custody. Later that night the police sent a message to the farmers saying that the Arfon Community Mental Health Team – the team attached to the Hergest Unit where Healy works – had ‘assessed’ the killer of Rex and had deemed him not to be mentally ill. So he had appeared in court and had been bailed – but he had fled the area because some animal rights activists were after his blood. Over the following few days we found out that he was actually a psychiatric nurse himself who had left his post after becoming ill and had been prescribed SSRIs by a GP in Caernarfon. A few weeks later he pleaded guilty to killing Rex and received a suspended sentence – he had left the area completely by then.

Some two years later I read an article in I think the ‘Guardian’ – it was by him. He explained in the article that he believed that it was the SSRIs that had caused him to kill Rex and he had set up a website discussing the danger that he believed SSRIs posed. I visited the website and I noticed that the man concerned had consulted ‘a world expert’ on SSRIs, one David Healy. But Healy had told him that he really couldn’t be certain whether it was the SSRIs that had caused him to kill Rex. The other thing that was mentioned on the website was that the Arfon Community Mental Health Team had broken the law when conducting their ‘assessment’. (This will surprise no-one with knowledge of the Arfon Community Mental Health Team.) This man knew this because he was a mental health nurse himself and he knew the appropriate procedures for assessing someone in those circumstances. Judging from that website, I don’t think that the man who killed Rex realised that his world famous expert was a colleague of the Arfon Team. But I bet Healy noticed that they’d broken the law when he reviewed the case. (Healy certainly knew all about the misconduct of the Arfon Team – they were of course some of the people attending the research seminars where Nobel prize winners did not make an appearance.)

So when Healy was confronted with the wrongdoing of his colleagues, as ever he remained silent – and he also concluded that the prescription of SSRIs had not caused the tragedy. If Rex and his killer had been living in America would Healy’s conclusions have been different perhaps?

During the ‘Panorama’ programme, they gave a plug for a previous ‘Panorama’ investigation into SSRIs – which again relied upon the expert opinion of David Healy. That was in 2002. Rex was killed in 2002. David Healy ordered staff to have me arrested rather than agree to treat me in 2002. In 2002 so many people were committing suicide in north west Wales that it showed up as a statistical outlier in UK figures. In 2002, despite Healy’s best intentions, I was eventually admitted to the Hergest Unit with depression. Whilst I was there I was assaulted by the staff and told by Healy’s colleague Dr Tony Roberts that I didn’t have a mood disorder, I had a ‘personality disorder’. I was discharged and refused further treatment – and was arrested for ‘threatening to kill’ a manager, when what I had actually done was tell his secretary, on the phone, that he was a fat idiot. The case circulated around the Courts for two years whilst numerous staff at the Hergest Unit perjured themselves (see post ‘Interesting Happenings In The Legal System’). I was eventually convicted of calling the manager a fat idiot. There was never an investigation into my assault at the hands of Hergest staff or the perjury. Last year I found out that after the case a certificate of indictment had been forged stating that I’d been convicted of ‘violent disorder’ (see post ‘An Update On Those Legal Conundrums’). I am still waiting for the legal dept of the North Wales Police to sort it out. In the wake of the abuse and neglect that I was subjected to at the hands of the Hergest Unit, I complained to the GMC about Dr Tony Roberts. Last year I discovered that the GMC were in possession of a forged document which they had used to ‘investigate’ my complaint against Roberts and subsequently clear him (see post ‘The General Medical Council And Yet Another Forged Document’). I complained about another Hergest psychiatrist at the same time, a man who was my former neighbour so should never have been involved in my case and whom I knew to be suffering from a mental illness himself and to be violently assaulting his wife. I was branded as making ‘outrageous allegations’ and no action was taken against this doctor. He was later removed from the Medical Register after beating up his wife so badly that she was sectioned as a result of her own distress and his children were taken into care as a result of severe neglect.

So that’s what was happening on David’s doorstep in 2002 as he appeared on ‘Panorama’ as their expert. In 2002 people in north west Wales were openly talking about the chaos and neglect at the Hergest Unit and the hatred between the consultants there. GPs had started doing just about anything to avoid referring patients to the Unit and were privately conceding that the Unit was unsafe. One long-serving consultant, Dr Tony Francis (‘Dr X’) had recently taken early retirement after open warfare with his colleagues. The documents now in my possession show that this man was concealing the paedophile ring that had been in operation in the region. Francis killed himself some three years ago, as Operation Pallial re-opened the investigation into the north Wales paedophile ring. I was told just before I went on holiday that Tony Francis had actually been under suspicion of having been involved in the child abuse ring himself.

Healy’s CV describes him as having been the leading consultant in the north west Wales mental health service for many years and having been responsible for the ‘development’ and ‘training’ in that service. So the carnage on the ground is presumably down to Healy and his ‘leadership’. Healy believes in the concept of a ‘fall guy’. In the case of the Hergest Unit it should most definitely be him.

It’s not much to boast about really is it David. Many years ago David Healy won a notorious case against a drug company after they withdrew a job offer. Healy was alleged to have won a substantial settlement. I cannot help but think that if the drug company concerned had known what Healy and his colleagues were doing at the time, they would ask for their money back.

What of the other ‘expert’ featured on ‘Panorama’, Prof Peter Tyrer? Tyrer agreed with Healy – sertraline caused James Holmes to commit mass murder. Most of Tyrer’s work seems to be concerned with improving the classification of personality disorders (I think the biggest improvement would be to stop using such an asinine term) and to bring about a halt to stigmatising patients with such diagnoses and to achieve better therapeutic outcomes for them. Which is the polar opposite of what has gone on at the Hergest Unit for years – that Unit has become notorious for declaring patients to have ‘borderline personality disorders’ after they have dared make a complaint about the abuse that pervades the place and then refusing to treat them. A number of patients have been literally left to commit suicide under these circumstances.

So who is Tyrer? He is the Professor of Community Psychiatry at the Centre for Mental Health at Imperial College. For info about malpractice, research fraud and general skulduggery at Imperial, see post ‘A Cause Close To Our Hearts’. Tyrer was appointed to that post in 1991, but I cannot find any references to his biography before that, so whether he has passed through those hallowed portals of corruption St Georges Hospital Medical School and the Maudsley I do not know. Imperial’s website also tells us that the Centre for Mental Health is associated with the Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust. The Chief Exec of that Trust is one Claire Murdoch – who is also NHS England’s ‘Mental Health Chief’ and Director of the Imperial College Academic Health Science Partnership, which currently has a ‘partnership’ with the drug company GSK (see post ‘News Update And A Few More Accessories’). That’s the GSK that manufactures the SSRI paroxetine that was the target of the 2002 ‘Panorama’ programme with David Healy. This week’s ‘Panorama’ programme stressed that Pfizer had omitted certain crucial case histories from the information that they released about sertraline. Well ‘Panorama’ seems to have omitted quite a lot of crucial info pertaining to Healy and his colleagues as well as to Tyrer’s links. ‘Panorama’ can’t plead ignorance re north Wales psychiatry either – I offered them a story and documentary evidence about the wrongdoing of the mental health services in north Wales about six years ago. I wondered if their failure to take up what would have been a far more devastating expose than even Winterbourne View was related to the media silence that surrounds anything to do with the North Wales Child Abuse Scandal (see post ‘Did Glenda Occupy A Key Role In Keeping It All Out Of The Media?’), but I wonder if it was because they’d given Healy so much free publicity that they didn’t dare run a story on what was happening in his own Unit? The Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board, which runs the Hergest Unit and employs Healy, is currently in special measures and is the subject of two external investigations into the institutional abuse of mental health patients.

Never mind ‘Panorama’ – all the info is going up on this blog, free to good homes. Including that drug company that Healy sued all those years ago…

 

 

Author: Sally Baker

I am a writer and a sociologist, originally from Somerset, but I've been based in Wales for most of my life. I had my first encounter with a mental health professional in 1984 at the age of 21. My GP described this man to my then partner - who also became a sociologist - as someone who had experienced 'considerable success'. My meeting with this psychiatrist was a disaster and we attempted to complain about his insensitivity and highly inappropriate behaviour. That was the first time we were threatened and pressurised to withdraw a complaint against a mental health professional. This man is long dead - he was a retired psychiatrist from the North Wales Hospital Denbigh, T. Gwynne Williams, who was working shifts in the student health centre at University College of North Wales (now Bangor University). We discovered years later that this 'successful man' was notorious - he had been an enthusiastic lobotomist...

4 thoughts on “A Prescription For Murder?”

  1. I fell asleep watching Panorama as Healy is a very rude idiot – I have had the misfortune of conducting some research with him!

    1. It’s incredible isn’t it – north Wales is crawling with patients who have first hand accounts of Healy’s negligence, rudeness, hypocrisy or dodgy research, but there he is on the BBC touted as an expert, he appears at Hay wowing all the Guardian readers who believe that he’s a patients champ and not one of these journos will report anything that’s happening on Healy’s own patch at the Hergest Unit!

        1. MIND falls into the same category as well – just look what they are doing and indeed have done for years, but every time a comment on mental health is needed, dear old Radio 4 conducts an interview with Paul Farmer! It’s why I started this blog Sue – I got sick to the back teeth of watching people dying at the hands of these vile hypocrites whilst the mainstream media spewed out crap about their tireless work on behalf of ‘service users’. I know that you’ve witnessed some real horrors too…

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