You Have the Legal Right to Informed Consent

The most important message for my 2024 Around-America Tour

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I didn’t know that I had the legal right to informed consent when I was first prescribed the SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) antidepressant Paxil two decades ago. I just “blindly trusted” my family doctor. He didn’t tell me about any side effects, and I didn’t ask. I assumed that if there were any risks with taking Paxil, he would tell me. After a successful 20-year career promoting physical activity and sport, with no history of mental illness, I was tragically wrong.

In July 2004, shortly after starting Paxil, I had a psychotic episode and took the life of my 11-year-old son, Ian, in London, Canada. I was then charged with first-degree murder, judged not criminally responsible (insane) in October 2005, and institutionalized in a mental health centre (forensic psychiatric hospital). I was conditionally discharged in December 2007, which allowed me to live with my wife and daughter again. I received an absolute discharge from the Ontario Review Board in December 2009, and have been off psychiatric drugs since September 2010.

I now understand the legal requirement for doctors to obtain informed consent from patients who are competent enough to make a voluntary decision, and that it has been a requirement for several decades.

assorted open law books with legal gavel, in dramatic light

Informed Consent

Informed consent is the process in which a doctor educates a patient about the risks, benefits, and alternatives of a given procedure or intervention, including prescription drugs.

There are four things a doctor must make sure a patient understands before informed consent can be obtained:

  1. Nature of the procedure or intervention;
  2. Risks and benefits of the procedure or intervention;
  3. Reasonable alternatives;
  4. Risks and benefits of alternatives.

In many countries, doctors often obtain informed consent by providing patients with a consent form (e.g., Medication Consent Form) to sign if they feel informed before a drug is prescribed, and they’ve chosen to use that drug to treat their physical or mental health condition.

Doctors are not supposed to prescribe a drug without obtaining informed consent.

Legal Precedent

In May 2023, a civil lawsuit in Boise, Idaho established a precedent for the legal right to informed consent for medical treatment with prescription drugs.

The Supreme Court of Idaho considered a case to be medical malpractice and, on appeal, vacated the summary judgment from a District Court that the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare and a physician’s assistant were not negligent for not obtaining informed consent from Terri Mattson before she was prescribed the SSRI Prozac as an outpatient at a mental health center. About a month after starting Prozac, she had a follow-up appointment with the physician’s assistant. When she woke up that day, she took a firearm from her gun cabinet, drove to a liquor store, bought a bottle of vodka, and drank the entire bottle on her way to the appointment. In the parking lot just before her appointment, she took the gun and shot herself in the head. She survived the suicide attempt but suffered extensive injuries. Subsequently, she and her husband filed the lawsuit. The May 2023 Supreme Court opinion sent the case back to the District Court for further proceedings, which was precedent setting in the United States.

Andy Vickery, a trial lawyer from Houston, Texas and John Layman from Spokane, Washington, who is also licensed to practice law in Idaho, represented the Mattson family. Although this was a medical malpractice case, Andy Vickery is no stranger to setting legal precedents.

In June 2001, the legal team of Andy Vickery and Jim Fitzgerald from Cheyenne, Wyoming were successful at getting a precedent setting $6.4 million jury verdict against GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) in the Tobin case after presenting clinical trial data, which GSK had fraudulently concealed, supporting their argument that Paxil caused Donald Schell to shoot and kill his wife, daughter, granddaughter and then himself in February 1998 in Gillette, Wyoming.

Legal precedents provide the basis for future lawsuits and are important in the court system. Judges often consider legal precedents to be case law that they should follow when making decisions, or at least consider. They are also newsworthy and can be catalysts for social change if people find out about them, which I’m planning to help with in 2024.

2024 Around-America Tour

For almost two decades, my “True Crime” story has, sadly, been my unique contribution to challenging the powerful influence that the pharmaceutical industry has on the global healthcare system. My daughter and I talked about our family tragedy in the 2017 documentary Letters from Generation Rx, the 2017 BBC Panorama documentary A Prescription for Murder? and on The Dr. Oz Show in 2018. Our family tragedy also provided the basis for the CTV W5 episodes Over the Edge (2007) and The Problem with Pills (2021). I also talked about my family tragedy and described my Paxil-induced homicidal psychotic episode in a 2021 interview for My Big Story, a current affairs show produced by ABC Channel 7 News in Australia.

Recently, I shared my story to help promote the first Antidepressant Safety Day in Cheyenne, where Andy Vickery and Jim Fitzgerald were successful at getting the $6.4 million verdict against GSK in the 2001 Tobin case.

More than two decades later, On October 25, 2023, the precedent setting Tobin case was still newsworthy and, combined with my story, helped me engage the mainstream media so I could reach the broader public with some important messages, which is my major reason for touring.  My Antidepressant Safety Day was promoted by The Cheyenne Post, Wyoming News Now, and Cap City News, and the FOX/ABC affiliate delivered some potentially life saving messages from me and Dr. Jasper Chen, a board certified psychiatrist, in a 2-minute news segment.

With the success in Cheyenne, I’m now planning a 2024 Around-America Tour about antidepressant safety. The legal right to informed consent will be the most important message I deliver.

From February to June, I’ll be facilitating Antidepressant Safety Days in 20 cities:

  1. Los Angeles, California – February 14
  2. Las Vegas, Nevada – February 21
  3. Phoenix, Arizona – February 28
  4. Albuquerque, New Mexico – March 6
  5. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma – March 13
  6. Houston, Texas – March 20
  7. New Orleans, Louisiana – March 27
  8. Jacksonville, Florida – April 3
  9. Charlotte, North Carolina – April 10
  10. Washington, DC – April 17
  11. Baltimore, Maryland – April 24
  12. New York, New York – May 1
  13. Boston, Massachusetts – May 8
  14. Columbus, Ohio – May 15
  15. Detroit, Michigan – May 22
  16. Indianapolis, Indiana – May 29
  17. Chicago, Illinois – June 5
  18. Minneapolis, Minnesota – June 12
  19. Portland, Oregon – June 19
  20. Seattle, Washington – June 26

Each Antidepressant Safety Day will have four parts:

  1. 11am to 12 noon – Discussion about Preventing Antidepressant Tragedies
  2. 4 to 5pm – Seminar on Tapering Off Antidepressants
  3. 5 to 6pm – Seminar on Alternatives to Antidepressants
  4. 7 to 9pm – Screening of documentary Letters from Generation Rx

Anyone can attend one, two, three, or all four parts. There will be no cost, and registration will not be required.

Although Valentine’s Day might seem like an unusual time to start my 2024 Around-America Tour, I’m hoping the following statement in my personalized emails to the mainstream media in Los Angeles will help get them interested in my Antidepressant Safety Day as a community safety event.

How many Americans have lost loved ones to suicide, feel guilty about how they might have contributed to the death, and have no idea that the suicide could have been caused by an antidepressant?

Far too many, which is why my 2024 Around-America Tour is starting on February 14, Valentine’s Day.

I’m not sure if I’ll have the same success with the mainstream media in the 20 big cities as I had in Cheyenne, largely because of the influence that pharmaceutical companies have on newspapers, television networks and radio stations with direct-to-consumer advertising, but it’s certainly going to be interesting to find out.

The CTV W5 episode The Problem with Pills and ABC Channel 7 News current affairs episode of My Big Story, both promoting my 2022 Cross-Canada Tour, reached a few million people. I hope to reach a much larger number by touring America.

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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.

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David Carmichael
David Carmichael took the life of his son in 2004, three weeks after being on the antidepressant Paxil. He was judged to be not criminally responsible on account of a mental disorder. David is currently managing the Know Your Drugs global awareness campaign. He and his daughter Gillian appeared on the Dr. Oz show in 2018, in two episodes of the current affairs show CTV W5 (2007 and 2021), and in the 2017 BBC Panorama documentary "A Prescription for Murder?"

3 COMMENTS

  1. I appreciate you reading my blog post. I’m looking for someone(s) in each of the cities in my 2024 Around-America Tour to help make the tour a success by providing some ground support. I’m trying to find people who can help me identify a suitable location in each city for an Antidepressant Safety Day, and would be willing to put up a one-page promotional flyer on bulletin boards in public libraries, coffee shops, etc. I’m alright for my first Antidepressant Safety Day in Los Angeles. I’ve secured a meeting room at a West Hollywood recreation center, and will be in Los Angeles a few weeks ahead of time. My challenge is with the other 19 events, which are just one week apart. If you can help make my tour a success by providing some ground support in one of the other 19 cities, please email me at [email protected]. Thank you.

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  2. Thank you for sharing your experience here. I would recommend seeing if Mad In America will post your request here on their social media so it can reach more people, I’m not sure how much traffic the comments get here but I’m sure you can get lots of help through making this info available on social media.

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  3. “There are four things a doctor must make sure a patient understands before informed consent can be obtained:

    Nature of the procedure or intervention;
    Risks and benefits of the procedure or intervention;
    Reasonable alternatives;
    Risks and benefits of alternatives.”

    I would ad a fifth requirement: Tapering plan for any psychopharma prescription.

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