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Citizens Commission on Human Rights Award Recipient (Twice)
Humanist, humorist

Thursday, November 05, 2020

Top Psychiatrist Told: "Don't tell patients about side-effects"

An astonishing admission from Wendy Burn (above), the former president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, has emerged on Twitter this past week.

Equally Well UK, an initiative which seeks to promote and support collaborative action to improve physical health among people with a mental illness, recently posted via their Twitter account that Burn, who is now a Clinical Chair of Equally Well UK, has openly admitted that during her training as a psychiatrist she was told not to tell patients about side-effects as it might dissuade them from taking their medication.

I put the following three questions to Equally Well UK:

1. Who trained Burn?

2. At what point in her career did she start to tell patients about side-effects?

3. Why did she decide to tell patients about side-effects?

All three questions went unanswered.

To my utter disbelief some people are praising her for her openness (see thread), in the main, it's other healthcare professionals who have probably never personally experienced horrific withdrawals from the drugs that Burn and other psychiatrists have prescribed over the years. Lest we forget those who have had to prematurely bury loved ones because they wasn't told these drugs could induce suicide. This, I feel, is being, somewhat, glossed over by those who are, seemingly, covering Burn in garlands.

I'll throw in another three questions for those.

4. How many people have died as a result of not being informed about a brain pellet's propensity to induce suicide?

5. How many of those were on Burn's watch?

6. What were the side-effects she was trained to keep away from her patients?

Not giving informed consent because you feel it will deter people from taking medication is no excuse for hurting those you are served to look after.

If Burn was trained to not give informed consent then others would have, no doubt, been trained the same way.

It's unknown whether Burn adhered to what she was taught, if she didn't then one has to ask why she is only raising this issue now given that she has been a psychiatrist for many years.

What's striking, to me at least, is Burn has failed to issue an apology, just as she failed to do so when, in 2018, she, along with colleague, David Baldwin, wrote an opinion piece for The Times, making the outlandish claim that "We know that in the vast majority of patients, any unpleasant symptoms experienced on discontinuing antidepressants have resolved within two weeks of stopping treatment."

She, after a public outcry, has since admitted she was wrong but it came with the caveat that she hadn't personally witnessed severe withdrawal in her own clinical practice. Makes you wonder if she was 'trained' to ignore severe withdrawal given her recent admission to Equally Well UK.

If getting brownie points includes an admission that you've kept hidden dangers, such as withdrawal problems and induced-suicide, away from patients then, surely, farmer Jones deserves points too for adding a 'HIGH VOLTAGE' sign to his electrical fence many years after people touched it and died. 

I despair. 

Bob Fiddaman

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