Saturday, 20 September 2008

GPs, unsafe motorists and paranoid schizophrenia

I feel a rant coming on. This morning I read that GPs are now going to held responsible if one of their patients has a driving accident should the GP have been aware that his/her patient may not have been well enough to take a car out on the roads. This may result in the GP being sued for negligence. What next, a GP/psychiatrist/social worker being sued should a patient of theirs kill someone if the GP etc knew that they weren't taking their medication?

The last sentence above is meant to be taken ironically, if you hadn't already guessed.

This week another woman was attacked by a 'paranoid schizophrenic'. She was knifed repeatedly and almost killed. The mother of the attacker was, understandably, incensed because she knew that her son wasn't taking his medication and, it goes without saying, although he was under the 'care' of the local authorities, they no doubt knew that the wasn't taking them too.

Last year, one of the worst for us as a family, when 'Zach' was in freefall after his repatriation from Thailand, he, too wasn't taking his medication. That was nothing new. However, the 'crisis' team were visiting him twice a day, even to the extent of seeing him once we threw him out of his flat, after he'd invited the junkies and the homeless to make themselves available of his 'generosity' within the walls we had so carefully painted for him in a previous, happier, time.

Two social workers, twice a day, every day. You'd think that was a pretty good scheme. You'd think that having spoken with 'Zach' at length, medication in hand, they would hand it over and tell him to take it. No, they couldn't do that. That was in breach of his civil liberties. They could talk until they were puce but they weren't going to ensure that he would take the very chemicals that would have helped reduce his grandiose and uncontrollable mania. So the flat was crammed with little white boxes full of pills and his bag contained other dosages but he didn't take them and they opted out of taking responsibility for someone who was a danger to himself and, consequently, other people.

What happened with 'Zach' last year, is repeated ad infinitum throughout this dogged land. No one person, GP, psychiatrist, local authority, social worker - you name it - will take the responsibility of caring for young people who are suffering from this most hideous of diseases: mental illness. Each and every time that someone is attacked by, generally, a young man in the depths of psychosis, there's an 'independent enquiry'. How many more enquiries do we need before someone decides that enough is enough and there's a directive that 'care in the community' do exactly that, care?

So the poor young man, labelled a 'paranoid schizophrenic', is now incarcerated for life in some revolting institution among the demented and criminally insane, pilloried and lambasted because someone in charge decided that his life wasn't worth caring for but GPs are now meant to take time out of their increasingly fraught days to ensure that a patient who may have had an asthma attack ten years ago while at the wheel of his car, is not about to have another one in the future. What planet are we living on?

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