Medication Forced Again
Kerry O’Malley Report: Mental Health Review Tribunal Hearing 1/4/20
Kerry O’Malley, defending against an application by the Health Department for a Community Treatment Order (‘CTO’), lost her case at the Mental Health Review Tribunal (‘MHRT’) hearing on the 1st of April, 2020. The CTO is now in force, permitting the Health Department to forcibly inject her every month.
The Tribunal, held at Gladesville, consisted of three members: a lawyer, a psychiatrist and a former nurse acting as a community member. It was held as a video-conference linking to the Nepean Hospital treating team – psychiatrist and a nurse/case manager, with Kerry O’Malley in the JA office. Kerry again requested Justice Action’s (JA) support for the hearing. JA has stood beside her since 2015 after her doctor requested its assistance.
This hearing followed an adjourned hearing on 11th of March, 2020, when the Tribunal had agreed that Brett Collins, her primary carer, would be recognised as her representative and thus have access to the Health Department file for the purpose of the case. However, in the intervening period, two Deputy Presidents of the Tribunal overruled the hearing decision and said that no person was allowed representation if they were not a patient locked in hospital.
Not only was Kerry denied representation at the hearing, but also as a consequence, independent access to her file. The Penrith Mental Health Service then gave Kerry herself 30 minutes to look at 6 pages rather than the whole file as required by law.
The primary point of discussion in both hearings was intended to be the replacement of the forced CTO with the Personal Management Plan (PMP) prepared by Kerry with her support people. The Plan was created as a workable alternative to the CTO, incorporating both medical and social intervention strategies. Ultimately, the Plan aimed to enhance Kerry’s autonomy over her own life and mental health rather than her feeling sick from the side effects of the forced medication.
Contrary to this Plan, the Tribunal gave the Order to the Health Department and rescheduled the next hearing for 30 September 2020, in 6 months’ time; bringing her to a 9 month CTO period in total (after discharge from Concord Hospital). This was despite the Concord psychiatrist’s statement that medication was probably unnecessary.
The case raises a number of considerable procedural issues, including but not limited to the denial of representation, access to files, and Tribunal independence. Ultimately, these issues turn 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. The O’Malley case certainly has wide and significant implications. If this lovely woman, a mother of five, cannot be defended against coercive treatment, with access to information and representation, nobody is safe.