Doctor Munchausen: Dying for a Cure

Editorial Note:  This is the second in a Doctor Munchausen series of posts – meditations on the fact that medicine is likely the place where the greatest amount of abuse on earth happens – but no-one notices and no-one intervenes.

The post below comes from the foreword to Dying for a Cure, Rebekah Beddoe’s book on what happened her when she fell into the clutches of a doctor.  The book came out five years ago.  It has just recently been made available in Kindle form – a compelling read for anyone who has ever had something go wrong for them when taking a psychotropic drug or indeed almost any drug.

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What is remarkable about books like Dying for a Cure is how women like Rebekah refrain from shopping the person responsible for abusing them.  Some will bridle at this use of the word abuse.  There is surely a difference between a priest who abuses and a doctor who perhaps gets a treatment wrong?  The doctor is well-intentioned.  Is s/he?

Medicine involves giving poisons.  The miracle of medicine is the ability to bring some good out of the use of a poison.  How do we characterize someone who is blind and insensitive to the fact that the poisons they close to force on someone might in fact be poisoning them?  How do we characterize all the other good doctors who figure that pretty well whatever it is that another doctor does it falls within the realm of legitimate medical practice?

Foreword

The Oscar nominated movie The Changeling starts with a clip saying it is a true story – not just based on a true story.  In it the horrors of psychiatry are portrayed, pretty well as they have been since One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest, through the forced administration of Shock Therapy (ECT) – even though the heroine’s incarceration happened 10 years before ECT was invented.

When the historical detail is so wrong, presumably there has been a calculation that ECT inflicted in this way will best epitomize the fears of today’s viewers about psychiatry.  But in fact forced treatment with ECT is now vanishingly rare.  In regular psychiatric practice insiders, both staff and patients, are much more likely to fear forcible and indefinite medication with long-acting antipsychotic injections – a treatment that is more clearly brain damaging and likely to turn a person into a zombie than ECT.

The Nice Doctor will see you now

But in terms of the greatest amount of damage done to the greatest number of people, the real abuses, the real dramas, lie in outpatient, or voluntary, or primary care treatment with drugs like the antidepressants.  Where ECT when given punitively, as has happened in the past, might be compared to rape as an instrument of War, in countless outpatient and primary care settings an abuse quite comparable to the sexual abuse of children or sexual harassment happens – much more common than wartime rape and probably much more destructive.

The pink section papers of a Mental Health Act aren’t in evidence when we are prescribed an antidepressant.  We are free to walk out the door after a consultation, and we think as a consequence that there is nothing to worry about.

But these drugs are available on prescription only, and when we go for treatment we are linked inescapably to the prescriber.  In the ordinary course of events for most of us, going to the doctor is like going to the bank manager or the head teacher – we feel a few inches tall, absurdly grateful for the smallest signs of favor, and often completely forget what we had meant to say.  This situation is compounded if things begin to go wrong after some treatment starts, when the doctor may quickly seem like our only way out.  We become ever more dependent on him, and grateful.

We are unaware we are heading into a medical version of Stockholm syndrome – the puzzling state where hostages are often close to being in love with those who have taken them hostage.  If the difficulties we develop are caused by the treatment and the doctor does not recognize that what he has done or is doing is wrong for us, then we become almost hostages to fate.

Abuse or Not?

It can be extraordinarily difficult for any of us to distinguish between the almost identical anxieties, insomnias, and morbid thoughts that these treatments can cause even in healthy volunteers and the anxieties, insomnias and morbid thoughts that may stem from the illness or problem we took to the doctor in the first instance.  It becomes effortless for the doctor to blame any developments or worsening on our original problem, rather than his treatment.

Surgeons did just this – blamed the victim – faced with the evidence of memory problems after cardiac surgery, psychotherapists did it in the face of evidence that memories of abuse were sometimes false, and psychiatrists routinely do it when patients get hooked on antidepressants or tranquilizers or get tardive dyskinesia or diabetes from antipsychotics.

In addition to things getting worse for us when a treatment goes wrong, we become isolated astonishingly quickly. If we approach someone for help, we have to risk the stigma of being seen to have a mental problem and then also risk being stigmatized as a loser. We risk incomprehension.   Few if any mental health professionals are likely to take our side rather than the doctor’s.

We risk the next prescription being increased to root out the lingering traces of our illogical thinking.  No one will call this a reprisal.  If for some reason, we are listened to and treatment stops and we get worse, no-one is likely to counsel patience to help see us through what might well be a withdrawal syndrome.

Are you there God? Its me Margaret

The ultimate bind is that our questions will be put in the weighing scales against the scientific answers and found wanting, and what self respecting doctor in an evidence based medicine era will want to be seen to go against the evidence.  Can all the guidelines be wrong?

There is no-one on our side who is likely to point out that the so-called scientific evidence has been carefully constructed by pharmaceutical companies, who suppress trials that don’t suit their interests, and who selectively publish data from trials so that even a trial that has shown a drug fails to work and can trigger suicide can be transformed into a trial that shows unparalleled evidence of efficacy.

There is no one to point out that pretty well all the trials published in even the best journals are likely to be ghostwritten.  No-one to point out in the case of the antidepressants that pharmaceutical companies have moved dead bodies around in a manner that may well be fraudulent.  No-one to point out that lawyers and others looking after the interests of pharmaceutical companies regularly take advantage of medical innumeracy to hide even more dead bodies simply by constructing trials so the results will not be statistically significant.

As in other areas of abuse, if we wait for the abusers to recognize the problem we are likely to wait for ever.

Blowing the Whistle

As in so many other areas from Enron to sexual abuse, it is likely to be women who will blow the whistle.  And this is the background against which Rebekah Beddoe’s Dying for a Cure needs to be read.  She outlines a drama of seduction, increasing personal confusion, family bewilderment, and finally survival against the odds.  But she is also offering a Manifesto.

What she describes will seem unbelievable to many – although not to those who have been through the “system”.  Could it happen here in Britain in 2009?  Absolutely.  Countless dramas of this sort happen in British clinics every day – and not just within the mental health domain.  Any area of medicine that has a large number of currently on patent pharmaceuticals, for respiratory or cardiac or other conditions, can be infected in the same way.

The truth is that as 2009 slides into 2010 and beyond we are increasingly less likely to get good medical care – by which I mean when a doctor cares enough about her patient to put the patient’s welfare first even if this means taking on an employing organisation, or the medical or scientific establishment.

Make my day Punk

Dying for a Cure calls out for a movie to be made of it – but we are likely to be waiting a long time for some future Clint Eastwood or Spike Lee prepared to take on this challenge.  What stops them?

Unlike ECT, the problems found in Dying for a Cure are ones in which we are all complicit.  This makes the project difficult but also adds to the interest.  If movie directors are not prepared to take on the challenge, as a matter of honor they should stop making movies like The Changeling or Girl Interrupted, which look brave  but in fact play a part in perpetuating the kinds of abuse that Rebekah Beddoe outlines so vividly here.

Fn 2014:
Angelina Jolie who was almost given ECT in The Changeling now leads a campaign against rape as an instrument of war.  We need someone as high profile as her to pick up the fight against pharmacological abuse.


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You and your meds. Give the real story. Get the real story.

Pharmageddon

Pharmaceutical companies have hijacked healthcare in America, and the results are life-threatening.

 

Dr. David Healy documents a riveting and terrifying story that affects us all.

 

University of California Press (2012)

 

Available on Amazon.com

 

Comments

  1. Rebekah Beddoe says:

    When I was writing DYING FOR A CURE people by and large struggled with the concept that drugs like antidepressants could wreak the kind of havoc they did on me. Now, it is a little more accepted, only a little, and it’s not because drug companies and authorities have rushed to inform and protect us.

    Rather it’s because of the dozens, the hundreds, the thousands by now who have gone on to be affected almost exactly as I was by the drugs. And that’s been a little like watching car after car slide into a wreck while you scream, almost unheard, that the road ahead is slippery!

    Of course, another major reason the facts are better known is because of the tenacity of people like you, David. If only now, in addition, we could have an ‘Angelina Jolie’ pick up our cause. Wouldn’t that be brilliant.

    If any one is looking to purchase a copy of DYING FOR A CURE – A MEMOIR OF ANTIDEPRESSANTS, MISDIAGNOSIS, AND MADNESS they can now purchase it for Kindle through Amazon.com or for iPad through the iBook store.

    Rebekah

  2. Rebekah, your book has left dr. Healy mentioning it, that means your book has alot of relevance.
    I cannot read books, unfortunately, I am not dyslexic but really lack the ability to
    visualize what I read.

    Notes on the last Words of the post:
    Yes, dr Healy, we need a high caliber spokesperson.
    One that stands tall and who is, perhaps falsely, respected in Another field than psychiatry.
    I just know that Jim Carrey might be one with the right voice and perhaps even experience. He was a Little less in the public Eye at one time, and rumors and some of what he said around that time Points towards AD’s could’ve been present.

    Or perhaps the Dream persona: Morgan Freeman!
    (It can’t be just me who Thinks he really IS God embodied on Earth, laughing somewhat..)

    • Measure for Measure says:

      Sadly, celebrities and politicians are just as vulnerable to professional intimidation as scientists and doctors. Oddly enough Carrey wrote a great impassioned piece about autism and vaccines in Huffington Post. Weeks, or possibly only days later, he split from Jenny McCarthy and that was the end of his advocacy. In fact not much has been heard from her, despite which the pharma mounted a brutal media campaign to have her ousted from her new job on The View last year. It is actually remarkable that she has survived at all professionally. And now a great media lynch mob is going Robert F Kennedy jr for raising the issue of mercury in vaccines again.

  3. There is something profoundly simple about this.

    Do I want an Angelina representing me? No, thanks.

    Most, people, like Mick Jagger, will not ever question why his girlfriend hanged herself. She hanged herself.
    It did not occur to him to ask why.

    Racked with guilt, that it was his fault, somehow, he made up his mind, in a split second, that beautiful, talented, L’Wren Scott committed suicide.

    Why wouldn’t he think that?

    She did.

    If you are out of the loop, then, no-one is going to question.

    Do we write books, do we make films, do we rage and rant, do we worry pharmaceutical companies, do we fell trees with one arm with anger….we do what we always do…

    Break it down gently…and gentlemanly…and with a gentile manner….

    Your doctor’s private life might surprise you..I saw the whole plot=line as I was invited into her private life, not many are so fortunate……

    As I said, look at the person right in front of you and decide if they are worthy of your time and, if they seem, not, run for the hills……………

  4. I read Dying for a Cure some years ago. ‘Beks’ is a terrific writer and her journey is one we should all read. Those outside activism circles will pinch themselves, those activists, advocates, call them what you will, in the circle [in the know] will just shake their heads and add the story of Rebekah Beddoe to a long list of others they have heard.

    If you think shrinks play by the book, you are wrong.

    ‘Dying for a Cure’ is evidence of that.

  5. I’m finding it impossible to access this book for Kindle via Amazon. I may be looking in the wrong place. Do you have a link please?

  6. I call iatrogenic benzodiazepine addiction “Choreographed Insanity” because that is EXACTLY what it is.

    I went on benzos to combat migraine headaches and quickly became depressed and more anxious than ever. Then came depakote, as it is an anti-seizure medication… then a variety of antidepressants – one right after the other. I suffered iatrogenic addiction for more than 15 years. A person can’t get their life together while drug addicted and they are, indeed, hostages to the drug industry and their ‘doctors’.

    After years of being on these drugs (that do NOT work), I began researching them on the ‘net, and my doc accused me of lying to her and telling her that I was having the negative side effects that I found on the ‘net. She wrote this into my records. How insidious is that? By accusing me of lying to her about negative side effects from these drugs, she granted herself the right to dope me up in any manor she so chose. Anything. ALL the while KNOWING THE DRUGS do indeed have black box warnings with the very symptoms I reported to her listed as side effects. I went to the doc believing the science was there and that it was legitimate. I have found out, too late, that the opposite is true.

    I have copies of – The Changeling, One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Girl Interrupted. I also own A Beautiful Mind directed by Ron Howard. In the commentary on the DVD Ron Howard states that it would have been irresponsible of them to report that John Nash had stopped taking his meds. I lost all respect for him with that statement. especially now that I know the meds are most of the problems we have with these drugs.

    I also own Pharmageddon and highly recommend it. I gave a copy to my son, also.

  7. Rebekah Beddoe says:

    R Cox

    Which country are you in? this is the link for the US version:

    http://www.amazon.com/Dying-Cure-antidepressants-Misdiagnosis-Madness/dp/1741664780

  8. My roommate is 36 yrs old and has been treated in the public mental health system from 11/2012 to 1/2014. She was hospitalized over 20 times. She has been with me for 3 years and has not been hospitalized once. After 2 1/2 years of telling me her meds were killing her (At 4’11” she was 210 lbs. once extremely athletic reduced to near immobility because of her med regimen – zyprexa, lamictal, depakote, haldol, ablilfy- in pill form and injection- invega sustenna – injection- bromotriptine, benztropine, geodon, latuda, these and others given throughout the years as her diagnosis would continually change finally ending on Schizoaffective disorder) I began the process of becoming a believer when in Oct. of 2013 her prolactin level was 106 and the pharmacologist and the adminstering nurse gave the comments as it being near fatal. It was that high because in administering the invega sustenna there was no regimen of monitoring her prolactin levels as was stated in the instructions for administering the injection was a necessary precaution. However the power of physicians being what it is I was unsure of what to make of it all until I came across Peter Breggin’s book ‘Toxic Psychiatry’ and Robert Whitaker’s ‘Mad in America’. From that point I told my roommate I would do everything I could to get her not only off the Meds but out of the public mental health system altogether. They were loath to let her go and it became a bewildering battle but we succeeded. Now however a whole plethora of problems have resulted regarding her behavior. I suspect that it is rebound withdrawals but have no way of finding out. She is seeing a well respected psychologist who is in complete agreement with Dr. Breggin and Dr. Healy but my roomate suffers from severe trauma, is afraid most of the time, can be extremely rude and abrasive causing threatening comments from those she hurts, can get paranoid and not want to go to her appointments with her psychologist, and has my mind spinning and my body fatigued month after month of trying to help her and seemingly getting nowhere. I hope my comments (much more in detail than I intended them to be) can be of help for anyone seeking information on the dangers of these drugs. If you’re not taking them, don’t start. If you are – sue if you can afford it.

  9. Whether you can afford it, or, not, the fact, is, suing is not an option.

    I have not heard of one case, in the UK, where there has been a successful legal case re doctors and prescribing practises and anti-depressants.

    Although, deeply, mortified, embarrassed, humiliated and so on, I took my case of medical mal-practise to numerous top legal firms in Glasgow.

    I thought I had hit lucky.

    In a small Dickensian office, in a large building by the Clyde, a woman, in an office the size of a shoe cupboard, surrounded with bulging files and me sat across from each other.

    Her in front of her computer, she said. You have one chance with this, you won’t get another one. Tell me in ten minutes, what you think your case is about.

    As I rattled it off, she typed it all on her keyboard and told me it would go to a legal gp for her to go through my medical records. This took months of legal aid application and getting a copy of my medical records.

    I knew, then, and, there, as my heart sank. The fault of my case would lie in the hands of yet another gp. I had no idea that this would be the route of my case.

    This complete failure resulted in the lawyer sending me an horrendous report and telling me she was sorry about my obvious disappointment.

    I didn’t give up and rang around and found a lawyer somewhere in south Scotland, who said he would take on my case for several thousand pounds…..but he thought it unlikely it would be successful.

    Suing the manufacture, is one thing, but suing surgeries and hospitals seems nigh impossible, when:

    Your medical records are filled with referrals and comments from medical persons who have no idea what they are talking about

    It is a completely one-sided argument with probably several persons completely screwing you up as they throw more and more drugs at you and then rip the heart out of your life by describing your bizarre behaviour.

    Complaints to the Medical Health Council are unlikely to succeed as they are part of the system.

    Where do we send in our complaints?

    I actually walked into a police station, relatively recently, and enquired about what to do about doctors’ ganging up and making up fabrications, but was told good luck with that one…it is not something we can help with, it is a medical matter…

    • To Annie. Your reply is much appreciated. It throws light on a multitude of issues. One, which particularly concerns me, is the giving of police powers to psychiatrists. The ‘imminent danger to oneself or others’ can be widely interpreted. It gives people with a grudge the power to submit testimony that can help a public health official have someone committed and by law forced to take these destructive medications. Even if they have committed no crime other than being an ‘odd character’ so to speak. This is very frightening. This has happened to my roommate on many occaisions. I had the legal power to request copies of her records and after weeks of not answering my phone calls or trying to dissuade me if I did make contact I received her medical and hospitalization records. I read statements from people I knew whose past behavior was many times criminal (continuing to take meth and smoke pot while living in housing provided by the state) that were received by the ‘authorities’ as valid testimony leading to my roomate’s involuntary commitment. I sat in on nearly all of her sessions with her therapist, prescribing pharmacologist, and administering nurse and to read their reports of what occurred in these sessions and remembering what it was like when I sat in on them, the written report presented a picture entirely different and more insidious than what I interpreted them to be. My roomate’s justifiable fear was noted as ‘hostile and aggressive behavior’. Or sometimes she ‘presents well but is guarded in her manner’. Losing weight could have her brought in for an evaluation. I guess what I’m groping around for is an attempt to get another testimonial out there to be read and to have the idea presented that possibly in involuntary institutionalized situations which includes forced taking of these drugs there could possibly be grounds for a lawsuit? And thereby opening a door for a wider arena of law suit possibilities? I can’t speak for Wales or other nations as unfortunately I have little information regarding their laws. But, hopefully, there are enough similarities between them and the U.S. that something, some method of redressing this awful situation is compatible. Thanks again for your reply. It was one more piece of information to help me muddle my way to getting justice for my roommate and the uncounted others that have gone through these physically and emotionally damaging atrocities. Atrocities may appear like an overstatement but considering the facts I don’t think its off the mark at all. P.S. A confession. I’m new at all this Blog, write a comment stuff. It wasn’t in my realm of being until I became aware of what was happening to my roomate. So, I’m a new recruit jumping into the battle. V!

  10. Measure for Measure says:

    In the UK we have de facto immunity for the pharmaceutical manufacturers. The Legal Services Commission would not even support the prosecution of Merck over Vioxx even after massive settlements in the US: every product is taken entirely at the risk of the patient and their families.

    • As every medication is taken entirely at our own risk, any enforced medication must be forbidden, surely? We must have the right to refuse.
      We are currently (in UK) about to have our water fluoridated. Far from informed consent for this, hardly anyone even knows about it. I have written to many MPs and get limp responses about scientific consensus. They never address the aspect of consent.

      • Measure for Measure says:

        Of course, the manufacturers still have theoretical liability in English law, it is just the executive make absolutely sure it cannot be enforced.

        Very troubling about fluoride.

  11. Interesting comment Measure For Measure – I am fairly new to what is shown on this web site – but having had a serious adverse effect from 2 drugs, have often wondered what on earth I would have done if I hadn’t made a recovery and it had become so serious that I felt it warranted further investigation by the drug companies themselves. It appears from what I have gathered so far that any efforts I would have made would have been hard work and apparently futile.
    So yes -‘ every product is taken entirely at the risk of the patient and their families’.

    At least I could report via Rxisk.

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