Jake’s Amendment Fails. And Yet..

 

Grace McManus, John Lynch, Stephanie Lynch and Senator Pádraig Mac Lochlainn
Grace McManus, John Lynch, Stephanie Lynch and Senator Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing – Edmund Burke. I know, I know, this quote is painfully overused, but I couldn’t think of a more appropriate one here.

So, yesterday myself (and himself) went to Seanad Éireann (the Irish Senate) to witness the second stage of a bill to amend the Coroner’s Act (called Jake’s Amendment). Jake Lynch is the forever-14 year old child at the centre of all this. His parents, Stephanie and John Lynch, assisted by Senator Pádraig Mac Lochlainn, have worked tirelessly on this bill since 2015 – a proposal to amend the Coroner’s Act to include a verdict of ‘iatrogenic suicide’ (treatment-induced suicide). Sadly, the bill failed at a vote of 12-19. However, there were many surprising elements to yesterday’s Seanad Shenanigans. Firstly, few showed surprise (or denied) that antidepressants can cause suicide; that is a major shift in opinion in a few short years. Secondly, among the senators who voted for Jake’s Amendment, several were willing to put their heads above the parapet and publicly support Jake’s Amendment. Lastly, the only one who argued a ‘causal’ link was the Minister for Justice, Charlie Flanagan, and he seemed to be directly quoting from Irish Psychiatry’s statement following Shane’s inquest – so hardly a surprise. Indeed, it seems all may not be lost with him either – as following the vote, he approached Jake’s family and expressed an interest in meeting up to discuss the issue. I have a feeling that little Jake Lynch (and his parents) will make a difference – and I for one, am very proud to call them my friends.

Background:

You may remember that Jake Lynch was a 14 year old boy (diagnosed with Aspergers syndrome) who was prescribed fluoxetine, aka Prozac, to ‘help with his exams’. Five weeks after being precribed fluoxetine (where the dosage was doubled without his or his parents’ knowledge), off-label and with nil informed consent, Jake ended his own life. As his mother Stephanie said – the only thing that changed in his short life was the prescription for fluoxetine. Available literature from the Irish Drug Regulator (the HPRA), provides that ‘Prozac is not for use in children and adolescents under 18’, due to the increased risk of side effects such as ‘suicide attempt, suicidal thoughts and hostility’. However, it provides that in the case of a child aged 8-18 with ‘moderate to severe depression’, a doctor may prescribe it off-label (not licenced for that indication) – if he/she decides it is in the child’s ‘best interest’. While the pros and cons of off-label prescribing have been oft-debated, it should be remembered that Jake did not have depression and was prescribed the drug ‘to help with his junior certificate’. Clearly, as he is now dead, it seems that Prozac proved to be in ‘his worst possible interest’.

Notably, Jake had no history (or diagnosis) of depression and his death came out-of-the-blue to all who knew him – seemingly inexplicable. Indeed, after a long and protracted inquest, the coroner concluded that Jake was not in his right mind on the night he died (resulting from the prescribed fluoxetine) and returned an ‘open’ verdict. This was largely due to an email that Jake sent shortly before he died, saying he felt ‘drugged out of his mind’ and further (demonstrating a shocking lack of consent), he expressed that he was never told that the drug was an antidepressant.

While the Seanad vote was disappointing, it was hardly surprising. Although 12 Senators voted to support the bill, the majority (19) voted against. The general reasoning was that an inquest cannot apportion blame and thus, a prescribing physician might be held accountable (imagine the horror!). However, this was addressed in the proposed bill and was not the intent of Jake’s Amendment. Indeed, this particular reasoning does not explain why ‘medical misadventure’ or ‘unlawful killing’ are permitted – and surely a ‘suicide’ verdict blames the deceased? It was also mentioned that there were other alternatives in circumstances where medical treatment causes harm, such as taking the legal route. However, this failed to consider that in Ireland (and indeed, Europe), taking a case against a pharmaceutical company or medical establishment means that a plaintiff must have the means to meet the costs of the defence if the action fails. Thus, for the majority of plaintiffs with relatively ‘normal’ means (who haven’t won the lotto), a legal action is nigh on impossible. This is not justice.

It was both humbling and inspiring to see ordinary extraordinary family members, stand firm with the courage of their convictions, in the face of any establishment. Senators like David Norris, Francis Black, (the very kind) Maire Devine, Trevor Ó Clochartaigh and Rose Conway-Walsh, were all thoroughly inspiring.

Contraindication?

While Senator (and doctor) James Reilly was among the opposers – it was hardly a revelation. Indeed, he took umbrage with Senator Norris stating that Prozac was contraindicated in ‘those with Aspergers’ – which he said was untrue. Hmm, let’s see, shall we?

Definition of contraindicate – To indicate the inadvisability of something, such as a medical treatment. 

According to a 2010 Cochrane literature review Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) for autism spectrum disorders (ASD)’There is no evidence of effect of SSRIs in children and emerging evidence of harm (I have full text if required).

According to the NICE guidelines (section 1.4.22) – Do not use antidepressant medication for the routine management of core symptoms of autism in adults.

And again, per NICE (reviewed in 2016) – Do not use antidepressants for the management of core features of autism in children and young people. 

It seems pretty clear to me that Senator Norris was actually correct when he said that the SSRI prozac was contraindicated for ‘those with Aspergers’. What is not clear, is why Dr Reilly was unaware of the NICE guidelines or the Cochrane review.

So, back to business as usual, the families fight on for justice and Jake, the 14 year old child at the centre of all this, remains irrevocably and needlessly dead. There is little doubt that this is not over – at least until the fat skinny lady sings (aka Stephanie).

The recording of the Seanad can be seen here from 26 minutes and concludes here.

The grieving mother is at it again!

Bad DayThis morning I was rambling around a shop in Wicklow – minding my own business. The radio was playing loudly in the background and there was a discussion on about depression. A ‘science expert’ was giving his tuppence worth, telling us how depression can be caused by low serotonin levels. I couldn’t just let that go, could I?

The shopkeeper told me it was East Coast Radio (ECR), a Wicklow based radio station. I’ll try to find out who the ‘expert’ is later but in the meantime; seriously? How can these idiots keep spouting the ‘chemical imbalance’ rubbish? It is drug company propaganda at its best and has no scientific basis, no factually based evidence whatsoever to conclude that depression is anything other than a reaction to life itself. So anyone, particularly a supposed ‘expert’ spouting this rubbish as fact is unforgivable, dangerous and completely unabashed of whether the science backs up the ‘expertise’ being publicized to the nation.

I’m having a bad day today, tears are ready to ‘go forth and multiply’ at the slightest provocation. Some unsuspecting person saying hello would be enough to set the floodgates in motion. I spoke to Shane’s friends this morning, so that probably set me off (lovely as they are). It’s nearly 4 years now and some days it feels like yesterday, 4 years since my lovely son died from 17 days of Citalopram. 4 years since he took someone elses life and his own on the same night. Sometimes I feel I have no right to be sad as I’m the mother of a guy who killed another person, whether caused by this particular drug or not. I wonder about random people who are nice to me, who want to chat about the weather, the traffic or the state of the country. Would they be nice to me if they knew I was the mother of a young man who took the life of another, or would they walk on by and pretend they didn’t see me for fear of catching something? Should I wear a placard around my neck telling randomers who I am?

The DSM-5 (psychiatric manual) would say that I have a psychiatric disorder, major depressive disorder to be precise. Being sad for 4 years is way over the 2 week period that this manual allows a person to grieve before recommending medication to fix them. Despite having a lovely husband and other perfectly happy normal(ish) children, some days I still wish I was dead. That’s not depression talking, just a fact; so much easier! Oh the joys of dying from a heart attack than to live with the pain of missing my son. And no, I’m not depressed, just having a bad day; a ‘natural’ reaction to some terrible circumstances in my life. I’ll be perfectly okay again tomorrow, particularly without the intervention of a doctor, who can and do make things so much worse by prescribing mind altering drugs. I’m sitting in my car waiting for my sons to finish Jui Jitsu (the latest craze in our house), balling like an idiot with make-up running down my face and hair like the ‘wild woman of Borneo’ (whoever she is). I care little about what people think of me anymore, my hide has been well and truly toughened in the last few years, so I’ll cry if I want to, just another mad woman, move along, nothing to see here.

It saddens me that despite the fight we put up since my son died, trying to raise awareness about the dangers of these drugs, I still get to hear idiots like your man on the radio spouting the ‘chemical imbalance theory’ as fact. Despite getting the real experts into Leinster House, who informed Minister Kathleen Lynch of the dangers of these drugs (who then nodded her head and did sweet fock all), doctors are still over-prescribing and people are still dying in our little country every day. Despite Senator David Norris bringing the issue up in the Seanad and Jan O’Sullivan bringing it up in the Dail, nothing has changed. In fact the over-prescribing is getting worse and the misinformation (like this morning on East Coast Radio) is rampant. Dr Kelly on ‘The Right Hook’ is not alone in spouting misinformation as fact. In my opinion Patricia Casey and Ted Dinan as ‘expert professors’ in psychiatry (who deny the suicide link to antidepressants) have laid a pretty solid foundation for ‘SSRI misinformation’ in Ireland. I’ll keep chipping away with the auld nail scissors and I for one will be very surprised if I don’t topple that wall! Maybe my irrational self-belief means I’m a model to be diagnosed with PTSD or even Psychosis? Pass the prescription pad, Celexa at the ready? At least my heart attack may be helped on it’s way! If my sisters or brothers are reading this, I’m fine. Don’t even think of a ‘just passing and I thought I’d call in’ visit! No family conferences to see what can be done about the grieving one! Just having a bad day; back to my old caustic self tomorrow, I promise.

Patricia Casey “Antidepressants do not cause suicide“…Lie!

Ted Dinan “There is no evidence that SSRIs can cause suicide” … Lie!

Dr Ciara Kelly “the drugs (SSRIs) themselves are not dangerous, they’re not addictive, they’re not even dangerous at high levels of overdose.”… Lie

Ps. The radio show ‘expert’ was Sean Duke. “With some people the serotonin level is extremely low and they can get depressed as a result.” OFFS!! Sean, described as ‘ECR’s science blogger’, can be heard here at ’10am hour’ at 55 mins.

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The chemical imbalance debunked….

Serotonin and Depression.

David Healy “No abnormality of serotonin in depression has ever been demonstrated.”

Dr Charlotte Blease. The duty to be well-informed: the case of depression.

Robert Whitaker “Rather than fix chemical imbalances in the brain, the drugs create them.” Anatomy of an Epidemic.