Doctor Sues Psychiatrist for “Misdiagnosis”

Kermit Cole
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Oregon doctor Susan Haney is suing psychiatrist Howard Sampley, alleging that he mistook effects of medication, and pregnancy, for a mental disorder.  Haney’s trip to the emergency room for asthma and pain from a burn had resulted in a diagnosis of psychosis, bipolar disorder, mania, potential harm to self and others, and a suspension of her medical practice. The state medical board later reinstated Haney without restrictions; she is suing for for $2.25 million.

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Kermit Cole
Kermit Cole, MFT, founding editor of Mad in America, works in Santa Fe, New Mexico as a couples and family therapist. Inspired by Open Dialogue, he works as part of a team and consults with couples and families that have members identified as patients. His work in residential treatment — largely with severely traumatized and/or "psychotic" clients — led to an appreciation of the power and beauty of systemic philosophy and practice, as the alternative to the prevailing focus on individual pathology. A former film-maker, he has undergraduate and master's degrees in psychology from Harvard University, as well as an MFT degree from the Council for Relationships in Philadelphia. He is a doctoral candidate with the Taos Institute and the Free University of Brussels. You can reach him at [email protected]

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5 COMMENTS

  1. Every kid that was misdiagnosed bipolar or with other stuff should sue like if they were given ADHD drugs that cause psychiatric side effects like mood swings, emotional lability and insomnia,hallucination, mania, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and anxiety to name a few.

    I don’t think the statute of limitations starts running until a person is 18.

    That inpatient hospital routine really sucks,

    • Regarding Copy_cat the kids “misdiagnosed”. They are not diagnosed/misdiagnosed for they are not sick. The children are not obeying authority, so in order to drug the children into behaving, a psychiatrist is needed to give the child a fictional illness( so drugs can be issued).

    • Hi,

      According to the newspaper article:

      “”But Haney claims that her symptoms were brought on by prescribed medication used to treat her asthma and the fact that she was pregnant and had received fertility treatment. The suit says she is not bipolar, does not have a mental disorder, is mentally competent and is not a danger to herself or anyone else.””

  2. Dr. Sampley, the person being sued according to this article once treated my spirited, beautiful, adult daughter at the same hospital cited in this article, about three years ago, so I am compelled to respond with a personal anecdote.

    First, of all, I do not relish the fact that Dr. Sampley is being sued. He is a nice person; he was the treating psychiatrist when my daughter was admitted to the hospital cited in this article. My daughter was hospitalized on that occasion because she was unable to care for herself. She was unable to feed herself, go to the bathroom, communicate, etc. She was so catatonic and unresponsive to the environment, that her eyes were ‘glued’ in an open position. It was like being in a coma. You could move her arm in an outstretched position and her arm would stay that way indefinitely until it lost blood circulation. You could stick a needle through her leg and she wouldn’t respond. People in this MIA community who argue that ‘mental illness’ does not exist should reconsider how these kind of comments affect family members whose loved ones truly cannot care for themselves. The argument shouldn’t be whether ‘mental illness’ exists but how do individuals fall into conditions in which they are unable to take care of themselves and what is the role of iatrogenic harm and trauma in their mental and emotional condition. In my daughter’s state, both played a major role but I will keep this post as relevant as possible to Dr. Sampley and how his character/belief system is relevant to our movement.

    He stated that in the olden days catatonic people were left to die and I believed him. Maybe in several centuries, things have improved slightly. Medicalizing ‘mental illness’ may be a step above medieval ‘treatment’. I don’t know. I don’t want to make that argument.

    Dr. Sampley played guitar by my daughter’s bedside when she was catatonic. I did some research and found that he is formerly from Texas and has an adult daughter who died of a brain tumor. He is also divorced and I speculated that his divorce may have had its roots in family tragedy as is so often the case. By speaking to the nurses, I found that Dr. Sampley is deeply concerned about the huge volume of homeless people who live near his house in Eugene, Oregon and he observed that a great deal of these homeless individuals exhibit signs of ‘psychosis’. I feel that he deeply want to cure ‘psychosis’ because he feels that it feeds homelessness and poverty. I state these facts because it shows that psychiatry is often founded on the right principles and clinicians are often well intended. But, until our family’s run in with psychiatry, I didn’t understand the old adage: “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

    I have a hard time reconciling this particular doctor’s ‘niceness’ with his clinical practice/beliefs. For example, when I objected to his opinion that the best standard of care for my daughter was electroconvulsive therapy, (at the height of her intellectual development) even though she was in a extreme state and unable to sign a consent form and make a fully informed medical decision, he strongly hinted as a part of his argument, that the anti-psychotic drugs that she had been given were ‘toxic.’ (Doctors are increasingly aware of the limitations and adverse properties treatment built around drug maintenance, especially neuroleptics but it is rare for doctors to share even a hint of doubt about medications) I could tell he was becoming uncomfortable with my objections, and my emotions around ECT. I hinted that I was willing to obtain an emergency injunction against ECT if necessary. Fortunately, this was not needed, as the hospital had a Director of Medical Ethics who was able to conduct a private interview with my daughter and my request, and as a result, confirm that my daughter did not want to be shocked. Dr. Sampley did not pursue ECT. Thankfully, he did not pursue it and I cite the excellent relationships and education/outreach that David Oaks established in our locality because, by happy coincidence, MindFreedom is headquartered here.
    But one conversation with Dr. Sampley haunts me to this day.

    When I cited the adverse effects reported by psychiatric survivors as reported to me by David Oaks, he replied: “You can’t trust what those people say. They are psycotic.” This is a sad reminder of how far our movement needs to move the goalposts so that the voices of survivors and consumers are heard and valued.

    Our most vulnerable people, including those who have experienced extreme states such as ‘catatonia’, hearing voices, delusions, etc are being institutionalized, forcibly shocked and medicated, and routinely stripped of their civil liberties; Meanwhile, we continue to argue how many angels can fit on the tip of a needle and focus our limited resources on the worried well.

    There are so many facets of the mental health system that it feels overwhelming. I think we focus reform efforts on children and the elderly because these vulnerable populations are the Achilles heel of the psychiatric system, revealing the undue influence of big Pharma on all forms of behavioral issues. We also focus on the worried well, the explosion of individuals receiving a diagnosis such as depression who are then being treated with the medical model rather than a psycho-social-spiritual model But in focusing on these populations, we are becoming too spread thin and the people who have been harmed the most by psychiatry are being thrown under the bus.

    As long as we continue to force treatment on people, as long as we treat people without fully informing them of potential harm from treatment, and as long as the ranking authorities on all legal decisions involving people like my daughter are psychiatrists, our movement has not revolutionized the mental health system, only guilded the cage a bit.