This is the first link to the Politics of Care forum. Comments on this post ideally need to centre on reports of actions – outlines of actions that will make a difference or details of what has resulted from efforts to follow up on the leads here. We need to keep track of what has been done and what, if anything, has made a difference, rather than fool ourselves with nice words. The image is of the Death of Cu Chulainn.
Stephen O’Neill, a Northern Irishman, died in July 2016. The story of his death is told in the first 8 links below.
Stephen came into my life a year later in an email from Colleen Bell, his niece, asking me to give her and his family a view about whether the sertraline he was put on had killed him.
The events that followed Colleen’s email epitomize the state we are in.
Everyone involved in Stephen’s case and later inquest seemed to be decent people. The decent medical people, perhaps on the advice of their lawyers, shucked off responsibility – as medical people, maybe always advised by lawyers, regularly do.
An inquest is one of the few times a doctor can make the medicines we take safer – by telling a coroner that its likely a drug did kill the person.
Unless a doctor opens up this possibility, it is impossible for a coroner to do anything. Even with the option opened up, its difficult for a coroner. At best s/he can draw the attention of the powers that be to the case – who will then ignore what has happened.
It was unfortunate that Stephen’s doctor failed to rise to the challenge, because this was an occasion where a family was waiting to try and bring good out of a situation rather than seek retribution and with the resources to do so.
How the system dealt with Stephen is almost certainly how it will deal with you whether you die from drug induced agitation, a heart attack, or stroke – unless the failings of the system are so gross that they cannot be ignored in which case they get passed off as a rotten apple issue and throwing the apple out means the system stays the same.
This image by Paul Klee is called Whose Fault is it?
Stephen’s death and the way it was handled was an everyday occurrence. You and I are unlikely to have someone like Colleen to spearhead efforts to bring some good from the situation. She has since set up Stephen’s Voice on Facebook, dedicated to raising awareness of the issues.
In addition Stephen’s death opened up possibilities to write to Departments of Health throughout the Western European Archipelago, as well as to the Guideline makers in the National Institute of Clinical and Healthcare Excellence (NICE), drugs regulators, the British Medical Association and Brenda Hale, the then Chair of the British Supreme Court, drawing their attention to the fact that the medical literature on drugs like sertraline is almost entirely ghostwritten and there is a total lack of access to the data from clinical trials on this and all on-patent drugs.
The letters to and responses from these bodies are linked to the 7 posts below. Extraordinarily, the responses make it clear the powers that be know about the ghost-writing and lack of access to the data but feel helpless to do anything. They quickly jumped on a phrase, I supplied them with, that it’s not our job to police the medical literature.
What is true for the Western European Archipelago is almost certainly just as true of the powers that be in the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Europe, Japan, Korea and in Xi Jinping’s China and Narendra Modi’s India.
We have to make a difference in the case of a death like Stephen’s. Otherwise we will be hearing the Crack of Doom much earlier than we should.
I’ve been involved in an almost endless series of inquests for heading toward 30 years, where decent families have been seeking to alert others to the risks of treatment rather than trying to hold doctors or anyone else responsible. We have gotten nowhere.
Samuel Morgan’s recent death was one of the saddest. I spent time in this case trying to liaise with his doctor before and since the inquest, trying to get him to do what only he can do to help make treatment safer for the rest of us.
Samuel lived in South Wales, where some of the healthy volunteer trials of SSRI drugs took place and where the capacity of treatment to induce suicidality and enduring sexual dysfunction in healthy volunteers became evident several years before the drugs came on the market.
Where also the leading medical officer in the Welsh Government had acknowledged an awareness of a the ghostwriting of the medical literature and lack of access to the data. There was a chance for Dr Adams to do far more than almost any other doctor can do in circumstances like this – had he chosen to ally with the family.
Most passers-by if forced to read this post would likely figure antidepressant induced suicide is unlikely to happen to them. Most are likely also pretty annoyed at the Vaccine Hesitant who are putting us all at risk.
Doctors who fail to stand up for their patients or the patient’s family at inquests do a great deal to created vaccine hesitancy. They kill the trust that those who have been harmed by treatments originally had – or they would never have taken the treatment in the first place. This trust is not just in sertraline or a vaccine, its trust in the doctor recommending it and in the institutions that s/he trusts.
Anyone who figures our institutions cannot be trusted
is on pretty solid grounds. These grounds offer a good basis for hesitancy. This has nothing to do with fear of vaccines and everything to do a horrible awareness that we cannot depend on people we thought we could trust.
For your doctor or politicians or Brenda Hale, or NICE, or Medical Associations or Medical Journals or anyone else to blame anyone who is vaccine hesitant for these reasons is contemptible. This is a problem that is not going to go away until we either have a complete surveillance state or doctors and others regain our trust.
For many people Onora O’Neill, also from Northern Ireland, is the person who speaks most eloquently about our need for Trust. Life though is complex and however it happened she now liaises with Sense about Science, effectively and outsourced public relations agency for industry, especially the pharmaceutical industry. An agency of the kind that does so much to sabotage trust in our institutions. See Trust me I’m not a Doctor.
The documents attached the second set of O’Neill posts can be downloaded from the posts, which gives context, or gotten on request from DH, and adapted to European, American, Antipodean, or other jurisdictions – anywhere where there are regulators, politicians, senior law officers or others who should be told about the hole in the bottom of our institutions through which trust is leaking out.
We can host all letters here along with any responses received.