This is the fourth in the Persecution Series – a continuation of the letter to the H of Commons posted earlier this week. Click on the image to view the words and the detail.
Abuse is always repeated
I was referred to GMC some 8 years ago. Then the referral came from David Nutt and Guy Goodwin, professors of psychiatry in Bristol and Oxford, who as the basis of the complaint used an article by James Coyne, a psychologist in Philadelphia, raising concerns about Healy.
Coyne had become or perhaps saw himself as an unofficial spokesperson for the University of Toronto in the Healy Affair in 2001 – a scandal precipitated by the possibly self-styled Boss of Bosses, Charlie Nemeroff leaning on the University to get rid of Healy. JC spent years afterwards ranting and raving to anyone who would listen about Healy’s conflicts of interest, lack of academic heft, and general sliminess. But he didn’t turn up to debates that were scheduled and wouldn’t engage on the issues.
Why Dave Nutt – who ironically since has ended up being seen by many as a hero of free speech – wanted to do me in is something I’ve never gotten to the bottom of. We used to get on relatively well. I tried to make contact afterwards – but nothing doing.
The entire correspondence between me and the GMC and documents obtained from Dave Nutt and Guy Goodwin under Freedom of Information is posted on HealyProzac.com/academicstalking.
The GMC closed that investigation with memorable words – that this contretemps is just the kind of thing that academics get up to.
This response rather fits initial official responses to claims of harassment in the Harris, Saville, Clifford and other cases. This is “just the kind of thing that happens”.
Academics being academics or harassment?
What I suppressed at the time was that James Coyne, whose claims were at the centre of the case 8 years ago, had been arraigned for serious physical abuse of a partner and had a record of intimidation. In fact the correspondence I have suggests the University he had been with before the University of Pennsylvania had moved him on in a manner rather like the Catholic Church moving a priest in trouble on from one setting to another. I can provide all details.
Many people who had encounters with him, particularly women, thought about and in some cases put in place bodyguards.
He was later, it would seem, let go by the University of Pennsylvania. It is difficult to penetrate what finally happened as U Penn are concerned to safeguard Dr Coyne’s rights but whatever happened followed well-supported allegations of serious harassment of a research colleague.
The GMC could have done something to prevent this but I guess “we weren’t to know”.
I had input to the Coyne U Penn case but none to the Nutt and Goodwin issues below.
Drs Nutt and Goodwin featured on a Panorama expose of the ties between UK academics and pharmaceutical companies earlier this year. Drs Nutt and Goodwin have since been assured they have the full support of the Royal College of Psychiatrists.
Shelley Jofre, who made the program, in contrast, who has done more for the cause of access to clinical trial data, possibly the most important ethical and moral issue in medicine of our day, than the BMJ, AllTrials or anyone else, found that shortly after the program was broadcast, Panorama announced its intention to make her redundant.
The issues we are dealing with would appear to be of some moment.
Stepping up to the plate
It will do no-one any good if the GMC terminate this case with words as pat as they used the last time around. What can be done to prevent that?
It will do no-one any good if something good cannot be brought out of this mess. What can we do to achieve that?
If I refuse to engage further in the process, this will damage me in the short term. Putting the key evidence over the next few weeks into the public domain, and drawing as much attention to what has happened as possible, might damage me even further.
In any reasonable universe, given GMC have no procedure to cover this situation – or how to handle doctors who have their articles ghost-written or company doctors who lie about the risks of treatment, who compared with Harold Shipman injure and kill people on an industrial scale – this has to be the right thing to do, although this might only be obvious retrospectively. It seems doubly warranted if we are not operating in a reasonable universe.
There are risks to embarking on this course of action. Let me make clear where the course is directed. I, and almost everyone else I work with here, would like to know exactly what is and has been going on in the mental health and wider services here. It is simply not possible to know how to keep people safe if we cannot orient ourselves within the currents flowing through the system.
This is not about legal actions or being punitive. It is about truth first without which there is no possibility of reconciliation.
Making the material public, there can always be the hope that someone within Betsi, perhaps Dr Birch who in the past has talked about the need to put patient interests before those of the organization, or Professor Purt who is new to all this, will engage. It’s over three months since anyone within Betsi has engaged.
At present, by doing what they have done, BCUHB (Betsi) have enjoined themselves and GMC in several very high profile criminal and other legal cases and academic issues. I will be putting up timelines soon that hint at many possible stories. Perhaps not the right story. Goodness knows what kind of story once pharmaceutical company lawyers, public relations agencies and science consultancy groups get their hands on it.
It might be argued that I am compromising Betsi and the GMC, but this goes to the heart of the dilemma. I would have to presume myself guilty and put the interests of BCUHB and GMC over those of patient safety to warrant taking that approach. In the current circumstance, this is not what Good Medical Practice looks like to me (or my colleagues).
So for those following the Murder Mystery – Who is Doctor Who?
Keep one eye on the names Higgo, Makin, and Harborne, and the other….
Eight years after the Healy-Toronto Affair, at an ACNP meeting in Arizona, after much hunting I was gifted a hand-shake opportunity with the Boss of Bosses, Charlie Nemeroff. He scuttled away.
Before that at the same meeting, which was two years after my last referral to the GMC, while absorbed in playing Where’s Charlie, I ran smack into James Coyne. JC was a smallish guy who fell over himself to paint himself as my new best friend, pointing to our shared Irish roots and the very many positions we have in common.
(Strangely we do, it seems, have views in common).