Kerry O’Malley is a 74-year-old woman who has spent the past 47 years fighting against forced medication and community treatment orders (CTO). Her case is now waiting in the New South Wales (NSW) Supreme Court in Australia.
The degrading treatment and removal of individual autonomy she has experienced highlights everything wrong with the Australian mental health system. Kerry is just one of many, but she presents these psychiatric issues well and has uniquely decided to identify herself, and thereby to defend the 5,000 others in the same situation. Here is her story in a five-minute video.
As Kerry’s case was lodged with the NSW Supreme Court, the authorizing tribunal threatened her primary carer with twelve months in prison for supporting her using her own name, but backed off when the bluff didn’t work. Here is the threat and our response. By publicly identifying herself, she is ensuring she is recognised as a real person, not a label, and that is potentially culture changing. The same issue of the entitlement to using your name was raised by ABC’s Background Briefing program with Saeed Dezfouli in a segment called “The Man Without a Name.”
We at Justice Action, in coordination with Kerry, are pursuing a case in the Supreme Court of NSW, and demand she receives compensation for the draconian experience she has endured. Through the publication and awareness of this tragedy and by establishing a common-law precedent, we hope to prevent others from being treated the same by Australia’s mental health system.
Kerry’s past struggles over her community treatment orders and her rights
In recent years, Kerry, who has been diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder but still been an active community participant, has had to constantly challenge the CTOs levelled against her by the NSW Health Department. In 2015, Kerry O’Malley and Justice Action successfully removed a CTO through an appeal to the NSW Mental Health Review Tribunal (MHRT). However, it was not long before the Health Department once again imposed a CTO in 2017, and she was administered a long list of drugs against her wishes. Despite the pleas of Kerry and her sister, she was continuously prescribed paliperidone, sodium valproate, and lorazepam. Kerry cannot metabolise many common psychiatric drugs due to her genotype, but this did nothing to faze the practitioners at the facilities she was locked in. She thus had to endure debilitating side effects that included losses in concentration, anxiety, depression, and loss of motivation.
This neglect for personal autonomy is a consistent and pervasive attitude through all levels of the mental health system. No human being should be stripped of their dignity and autonomy in such a way, much less a vulnerable 74-year-old woman.
“I have good supports including my daughter who brought me here today…I also have a lot of support from Church friends and I will see Dr Ben Teoh and a wonderful psychologist in Penrith. My rights have been overlooked.”
– Kerry’s statement at the MHRT, 2020
Justice Action and Kerry were again successful in their appeal to the Mental Health Tribunal in 2017, overcoming the control of the Health Department. Kerry’s forced treatment was invasive and was against her benefit, and they accepted Kerry’s plea for an alternative Personal Management Plan [PMP]. Kerry’s PMP was created as a workable alternative to the CTO, incorporating both medical and social intervention strategies. Ultimately, the PMP aimed to enhance Kerry’s autonomy over her own life and mental health rather than feeling sick from the side effects of the forced medication.
On the 17th of December 2019, Kerry was released from hospital again, and sought Justice Action’s assistance in removing the CTO order that was still in effect. Despite the MHRT’s initial consideration of a PMP, the Tribunal decided to uphold the order, to be reconsidered in April.
Yet more forced medication
However, with the MHRT’s recent decision on the 1st of April, Kerry had been unquestionably deprived of her right to give “free and informed consent” to the CTO, as required under Article 25(d) of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Persons with Disabilities. Likewise, Articles 14 and 15 mandate the necessity of informed consent and a freedom of person, especially with regard to involuntary treatment.
Contrary to this, the Tribunal gave the order to the NSW Health Department and rescheduled the next hearing for 30 September 2020, in six months’ time, raising her CTO period to a nine-month total. This was despite the overseeing psychiatrist’s statement that medication was probably unnecessary. Since April of this year, Kerry has thus been forcibly injected. This was a rejection of the “recovery” approach in favour of the biomedical model of treatment, and a continuation of the systemic neglect of the wishes of Kerry and her mental health support team, like many other CTO recipients.
The failures of Australia’s mental health system: Denial of representation or assistance, access to documentation, and entitlement to publicly self-identify
The case of Kerry O’Malley exposes the abuse of vulnerable people by the Australian mental health system. Kerry was told that the law prevented her from being represented before the Mental Health Review Tribunal if she was not a patient. She lives at home, and therefore legally isn’t defined as a patient. Accordingly, the MHRT decided she wasn’t entitled to any assistance, legal or otherwise. This is significant given the coercive powers the Tribunal has over such individuals in the community, which must be carefully and fairly exercised to ensure that people with a disability are not disadvantaged before the Tribunal.
By extension of the above, a lack of representation meant that no individual or representative was permitted to view the Health Department file, despite explicit sections of the law to the contrary. This denial of independent access to Kerry’s Health Department file was upheld, despite being at the centre of her appeal. Even for Kerry herself, the Penrith Health Service only gave her 30 minutes to look at six redacted pages, instead of her whole file as the law requires. The MHRT determined that access to documentation is contingent on the psychiatrist’s discretion.
Kerry was accused of sitting in a chemist shop, confused, for six hours. No evidence was given of her being a risk of serious harm to herself or others. In fact, she has never hurt herself or anyone else. Can the “threat” be so great that Kerry’s bodily autonomy must be refused, that her life be considered not her own?
“Previous to the current CTO, I remained free from hospital admissions for two years. Over these two years, I remained very well. I was prescribed a small dose of Largactil for times when I may become stressed or sleepless. This was the only medication I took over these two years”
– Kerry’s pleas to the Tribunal (2020) prior to the Supreme Court case
Kerry’s case raises a number of considerable procedural issues, including but not limited to the denial of representation, access to files, and Tribunal independence at the MHRT. Ultimately, these issues turned on a denial of rights to Kerry O’Malley, with the creation of a CTO without any justifying “risk of serious harm” despite her two years of stable independence. Her case certainly has wide and significant implications for Australia’s mental health system. If a psychiatric individual cannot be defended against coercive treatment, with access to information and representation, nobody is safe.
Clearly the current Mental Health Review Tribunal, as a mechanistic blending of the Australian judicial and health system, functions in a manner that undermines the rights, opinions and power of those that come before it—patient or otherwise—and works to serve itself rather than enabling those seeking to work towards their own recovery.
The need for change
When our elderly citizens must plead for their own rights with little information in the face of a bullying, draconian Health Department, we must demand answers. We must call for reform. Forced medication, adverse to consent and the patient’s own health, is a paradigmatic case of the greatest failings of the mental health treatment system in Australia. Kerry is but one of the 5,000 people every year facing CTOs and forced medication in NSW alone. How many more must suffer before the lived experience of consumers is given priority?
Kerry and Justice Action are currently pursuing a case in the Supreme Court of NSW against her CTO, forced medication, and the dismissal of Kerry’s rights. Justice Action has been threatened by the NSW Mental Health Review Tribunal with a year’s imprisonment and a $5,000 AUD fine for working with Kerry to gain awareness for her case and publicising her struggle.
“The Tribunal is embarrassed by its impending exposure before the Supreme Court and has only self interest in making such threats. We are proud to be standing with her,” said Brett Collins, Justice Action Coordinator.
Kerry’s case is unique not only for her attempt to have the injustice of forced medication repealed, but in exposing the breaches of rights by the NSW Mental Health Review Tribunal and the Australian mental health system for undermining rather than enabling the recovery and development of its consumers.
Justice Action is a not-for-profit community organisation based in Sydney, Australia that focuses on abuses of authority in the criminal justice and mental health systems in Australia. They have worked for over four decades to fight against mistreatment and human rights breaches in Australia for prisoners, involuntary patients and those marginalized and excluded by Australian prisons and hospitals.
Editor’s Note: Mad in America has learned that New South Wales Health admitted it was wrong to put Kerry O’Malley on a commitment order and to force-drug her. In addition, the Supreme Court ordered NSW Health to pay her court costs. To learn more, visit Justice Action’s Facebook page.
Editor’s Note: This article was recently published by a different named author. We were then informed that the “first author” should have been Brett Collins, as it was written under his supervision.
Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.
Thank you Liam.
Of course I am outraged. “tribunals”, what a sick joke.
Pleading to our jailers? Proving oneself to be non sick? How is that possible?
Psychiatry is terrified of losing it’s domain, it’s rule. And so is government who IS psychiatry.
We are basically asking our “leaders” to be kinder to it’s peasants.
Kerry is one brave woman to “ask” for her rights. Basically Psychiatry and other systems say “we are going to make it so ugly for you, that you will most likely back out”
It makes no difference if Kerry is a danger to herself. We have to establish who owns our bodies when we are born and perhaps that information should be given to any new perspective parents, so they can decide whether to have children who are owned by the state.
It is imperative that young people are educated as to just how far our states will go and whether it is worth risking.
It makes no difference whether she is gainfully employed or active in community. The lack thereof is no one’s business, and is not for psychiatry to look after nor define.
All these cases have NOTHING to do with caring about a human being, and not even about caring for society. Psychiatry is the worst form of ant-social behaviour which has incredibly gained power.
Another system that had great power before this and was really government, existed before psychiatry. When it weakened, psychiatry took over.
One can tell by the total power they hold. It is definitely time for the title of “doctor” to be removed.
Governments can keep it’s psychiatric religion and call a spade a spade and wait for uprising. I’m sure they will regret the numbers that they have oppressed by puppets.
“Kerry’s case is unique not only for her attempt to have the injustice of forced medication repealed, but in exposing the breaches of rights by the NSW Mental Health Review Tribunal and the Australian mental health system for undermining rather than enabling the recovery and development of its consumers.”
I do not believe attempting to have injustice repealed or exposing breaches makes Kerry unique. (Thank you Kerry! You rock!) I believe what makes this unique is the support Kerry has to fight. People willing to risk prison time for her freedom. She has a group backing her. She is believed. Writing her story. thank you.
Liam, I looked on “justice Action” page and “mental illness” is seemingly “explained” on there.
Perhaps because you are having to defend people who are not guilty, it would suffice to explain the difference between crimes and non crimes, and iron shackles as opposed to chemical shackles otherwise known as physical and brain damage.
We need gutsy lawyers willing to call bullshit.
Oh and last time I looked, it was not illegal to self hurt. This is why governments said suicide is not a crime and why they sell cigarettes and booze.
Thank you Liam,
I support and admire Kerry O’Malley.
You describe nasty and vindictive behaviour from the Psychiatric Authorities against a senior citizen. Its like the entire system is corruptly stacked against a “target”. If Kerry survives it proves “them” wrong.
I can’t agree either, with the notion that psychiatric drugs make people safer. It’s well established that psychiatric drugs can cause Suicide and Homicide; and shorten life expectancy considerably.
The LINK below represents how a ‘humane helping hand’ can have an extremely successful outcome:-
Thank you again for presenting this Article.
I think this case needs extremely competent expert advice. You can find that here:
In my experience, Dr. Gillman is probably the best there is in Australia.
Thank you for raising urgent awareness of what is currently going on under Australia’s mental health regime/system.
Thank you Liam for this report and for representing Kerry O’Malley. Thank God for the Justice Action organization! This is despicable. Once again the ‘mental health system’ is exposed for their fraudulent violations of dignity, humanity and trust. How disgusting this ongoing torture is used on a harmless 74 year old woman whose only issues were getting stressed or having trouble to sleep.
Thank you Kerry O’Malley for bravely speaking out and fighting for justice. Best wishes to you and Liam for success and to finally have long overdue freedom and peace.
“to defend the 5,000 others in the same situation”
You mean they were wrong when they passed these laws through Parliament and said it would only effect about 80 people who were ‘slipping through the cracks in the system’? Oh 80, 5000 its a small difference.
“Kerry had been unquestionably deprived of her right to give “free and informed consent””
They get around the need for ‘free and informed consent’ in my State (Western Australia) by slipping you a ‘mickey’. They then conceal the evidence/proof by providing people like Justice Action with fraudulent documents that removes the proof of the spiking, and then slander the person as being delusional from claiming they were spiked. Quite clever when you think about it making the truth a poison swallowed by the victim . Every time they tell someone about it, the slander kills them a little more.
“She lives at home, and therefore legally isn’t defined as a patient.”
I’d check that. Not sure about the MHA in NSW but if she is on a CTO and has a treating psychiatrist and is being ‘treated’ then she is considered a “patient” (outpatient). How else could she be coerced and forced? In fact this is how our police are torturing people here in WA, by having their status changed post hoc and thus being able to deny them any human and civil rights. Torture citizens, hand them over to mental health services to make them into “patient” post hoc (s. 195 Police Powers) and the torture sessions can be concealed using the methods you describe, with the added benefit of being able to distribute fraudulent documents to legal representatives.
There is an Operational Directive in place here to protect human rights that allows legal representatives, on provision of a confidentiality agreement, to view unredacted documents. Though the problem being that they are not provided with them when the documents prove the use of known torture methods being used. (the mechanism ensures the use of torture is brought to the attention of authorities first and thus allows for cover ups via fraud) In fact, police can be dispatched by hospital staff to retrieve any proof of torture, and then they send out the fraud. That way when lawyers make complaints on behalf of their ‘clients’, the authorities can respond with a poison pen letter that the lawyers are told not to read, and to hand on to their’clients’ who will hopefully not recognise the way the protections of the law have been misrepresented.
Our Chief Psychiatrist writes that the protection of “suspect on reasonable grounds” (with a set of criteria in s. 26 of the MHA to be met to make referral lawful) is now “suspect on grounds they believe to be reasonable” (which means that the s. 26 criteria no longer matter) and we now have arbitrary detentions available as a result of his dereliction of duty, and the “expert legal advice” he provides to the Minister.
I’m sure there are law students at you organisation that know more about the law in regard this first year concept than the person charged with protecting “consumers, carers and the community”.
A quote from a journalist asking a controversial Muslim preacher about his views.
“implying that anybody who disagrees with you is not basing their views , or their facts, on reality because you are right and they are wrong. Isn’t that the very definition of extremism?”
One can’t even have our Chief Psychiatrist recognise the very laws he is charged with administering. Does this not demonstrate we are trying to deal with extremists?
Anyhow, I wish you luck in your attempt to ‘advocate’ for Ms O’Malley. Though I think you will find your up against an opponent who does not have to play by the same rules as you. In my instance they have conspired to pervert the course of justice, committed acts of fraud, tortured and kidnapped, police can’t seem to find their copy of the Criminal Code while a doctor sorts out his ‘little problem’ in the Emergency dept, and the idea of getting an ‘advocate’ to assist in exposing the misconduct of the Minister well (see Corruption and Crime Commission Act s. 28 Mandatory reporting of suspected misconduct with penalty of more than 2 years prison. See Hansards re question to Minister regarding number of reports to CCC, ummmm none. Why would you report misconduct when you believe you have done an effective cover up? Failure to report being an act of misconduct 🙂 [“who else has got the documents?” and is thus aware of the cover up? and thus the fact the Minister has been “derelict in her duty” to quote her shadow outside Parliamentary privilege])……… good luck with that. All those unintended negative outcomes they exposed as a result of their negligence will ensure that nothing is ever done. You’ll just have to trust us, despite their ‘history’.
So much torture, scam, and legal overreach for . . . “alleged” loitering?
Good Lord! It would have been cheaper and more humane to jail her for 90 days. And, even that would have been excessive. I believe she was terrorized by psychiatry because she had the audacity to live into her seventies, while maintaining some quality of life. In first-world countries, people like her are not “supposed” to exist. She was a visible reminder of the limits on psychiatry’s power to wreck Mad lives. Her elder-lifestyle was ideal – calm, autonomous, and supportive. But, it also posed a significant liability to psychiatry. #FAKESCIENCE couldn’t afford to let a woman like her survive.
Psychiatry cannot EVER admit to their hoax and how much they need people to keep that hoax alive.
You will notice that in order to “prove” their “paradigm”, they ALWAYS refer to “schizophrenia”, because they want to make the thing that others can’t understand or identify with as the thing that is illness. They literally had to design a bible in order to create patients.
Most people I know, went to a shrink to get answers and talk about hardships of life, not knowing that psychiatry keeps believing in bloodletting and chemical icepicks.. They should have gone to the wise men.