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Patient sues psychiatrist after 35 years of treatment for ‘condition he never had’

A psychiatric patient who underwent almost 35 years of intensive treatment and prescription drug use for a depressive illness he now claims he never had has been given the green light to sue his specialist clinician.

Details of the unusual civil suit are contained in the recently published procedural rulings in the personal injury proceedings before Brisbane District Court Judge Ken Barlow QC.

The case involves the delivery of clinical treatment by psychiatrist Dr John Colin Slaughter to patient Dean Charles Harvey over a 34-year period.

In summarising the case, Judge Barlow said: “Dr Slaughter is a psychiatrist who has practised for many years. Between 1984 and 2018, (Mr Harvey) attended on the defendant (Dr Slaughter) for psychiatric advice and treatment.

“(Mr Harvey) alleges that (Dr Slaughter) advised him that he suffered from a depressive illness that would require lifetime treatment with drugs. (Mr Harvey) received treatment from the (Dr Slaughter), comprising regular consultations and the prescription of a large number of drugs, between 1984 and 2016.

“(Mr Harvey) stopped taking the prescribed drugs in 2016, although he continued to see the defendant until 2018. He claims that, thereafter, he recovered his joie de vivre (exuberant joy for life) and he has since been diagnosed by other psychiatrists as suffering no psychiatric illness and as likely never to have suffered such an illness.”

The court was told Mr Harvey contends that while on the medications he suffered a large number of serious side effects that caused him personal injury and loss.

“In 2019, (Mr Harvey) obtained leave to commence a claim in this court, against (Dr Slaughter), seeking damages for personal injury caused by the (clinician’s) alleged negligence, breach of contract, battery and misleading or deceptive conduct over the period of the defendant’s treatment of the plaintiff up to 2016,” Judge Barlow said in a ruling handed down on 29 July.

“That proceeding was commenced and, by the order giving him leave, was stayed pending completion of the pre-proceeding steps required under Chapter 2, Part 1 of the Personal Injuries Proceedings Act 2002 (PIPA).

“Those steps are still under way, having been commenced by an extensive notice of claim provided to (Dr Slaughter) on 1 June 2020. The limitation period relating to his causes of action was also later extended to October 2020.”

The purpose of Judge Barlow’s intervention pertained to an application by Dr Slaughter that Mr Harvey be subjected to independent medical examination and preparation of a report for the court.

“I shall therefore adjourn the application until a suitable date and reserve the costs to await the outcome of the further enquiries and any consequent steps,” he said.

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3 Responses

  1. All my best to Mr. Harvey! His courage in taking this step is inspiring. I see the same thing in my life which includes numerous attempts to have misdiagnoses changed in my record. All attempts have been to no avail. Maybe they would all pay attention with a law suit. Thank you Mr. Harvey. I will try to keep up with your suit.
    @imemjae62

  2. My son has two medical illnesses that manifest in “mental illness“ symptoms. There are over 100 medical illnesses that can manifest in depression, mania, or psychosis. His medical issues were not addressed. Instead he was just given psychiatric medicines for the symptoms. His life has been stolen from him. He’s been force medicated with psych meds for 32 years. If I could find a lawyer, I would do the same thing.

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