There are some very, very tragic cases being publicly played out in Ireland at the moment. Whether the use of medication was a factor or not in these cases has not yet been established, but the following unusual case came up in the Irish courts recently.
On 22nd of July Nurse Greta Dudko (pictured) pleaded not guilty to murder but guilty to the manslaughter of her mother ‘Anna Butautiene’ on Christmas Eve 2010. The jury failed to reach a verdict and a retrial was set for Oct 2014.
Ms Dudko, who is originally from Lithuania, had separated from her husband two weeks before the incident and was living with her mother and young son. Evidence was given of a litany of mitigating circumstances, including assault, both mentally and physically, resulting in the mother being struck twice over the head with a bottle by Ms Dudko. She said “I hit her on the face with the empty bottle twice because I thought she was going to ruin my life and just hated her,” She further stated she had no intention of killing her, “just to shut her up for the evening“.
Despite huge media coverage, only one newspaper reported that she had recently been prescribed medication by her GP, Dr Hassan Albayyari. On 15 December 2010 Dr Hassan prescribed Librium for alcohol withdrawal (9 days before Ms Dudko caused the death of her mother). Librium, a benzodiazepine, can cause, among other things: depression, thoughts of suicide, unusual risk-taking behavior, decreased inhibitions, no fear of danger, confusion, hyperactivity, agitation, hostility and hallucinations. There was further evidence of a prescription for Xanax in September 2010.
On December 22, 2010 (2 days before her mother’s death), she was prescribed Lexapro. Yes, Lundbeck’s Lexapro aka Escitalopram, found by a Brussels court to be the same as Cipramil aka Citalopram, here. Now, it is well established that this drug can cause ‘self harm and harm to others’, which at worst equates to suicide/homicide, so is this a prime example of involuntary intoxication? Dr Hassan said “Lexapro takes a minimum of three weeks to work”`. According to Professor David Healy who is an expert on SSRIs, that is wrong. In his paper entitled ‘Antidepressants for Prescribers‘ he states “This is completely untrue. These drugs produce benefits and harms within hours or days of first taking them. It may take several weeks for a clinical syndrome to lift but this is something quite different. The argument that the drug takes time to work is trotted out as part of the defense against claims that an antidepressant has triggered suicide or violence.”
So is Dr Hassan defending the use of Lexapro in this case? Who knows, but here is a list of some similar cases where antidepressant use was successfully used in an ‘Involuntary Intoxication’ defense, here.
There is also a further paper written on this subject by David Healy et al, entitled ‘Case Histories As Evidence’, here. Sadly, this paper refers to my son Shane (who is SC) and who suffered from involuntary intoxication of prescribed Citalopram. Is Nurse Greta Dudko another Lundbeck victim to add to the growing list, along with her mother?