‘We all have the right to a second opinion’

Lawyer, mental-health advocate says another psychiatrist should be hired to work with Craig

Rosie Mullaley rmullaley@thetelegram.com
Published on January 6, 2016
Telegram file photo
St. John’s defence lawyer Mark Gruchy responded to The Telegram’s story on Dr. David Craig by saying prisoners at Her Majesty’s Penitentiary should have more choice of psychiatrists.

Not everyone agrees with the approach Her Majesty’s Penitentiary psychiatrist Dr. David Craig takes in treating mentally ill inmates.

Mark Gruchy — a well-known mental-health advocate — is one of many who has expressed concerns about the doctor’s practice of eliminating inmates’ previously prescribed medication once they enter the prison.

But focusing on one man is not how to solve the problem of how inmates’ continuity of care is consistently disrupted, he said.

Gruchy said the entire system of how mentally ill inmates are treated should be looked at, with an emphasis on giving them a choice.

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“We all have the right to a second opinion from a professional,” said Gruchy, a St. John’s defence lawyer who is also co-chairman of the Community Coalition for Mental Health and past-president of the Canadian Mental Health Association.

“They are captive to Dr. Craig’s views, which fall within acceptable professional opinion, but which are by his own admission unusual in their level of conservativeness.

“Under normal circumstances, we would have the option to go with those views or seek something more mainstream or typical. They do not have that choice.”

Gruchy’s comments comes in response to an exclusive Telegram story based on an interview with Craig, who defended his methods and said he believed many people are over-diagnosed and over-prescribed drugs by doctors across the province.

Gruchy says Craig’s methods may not be suitable in a facility where inmates spend short periods of time (under two years) and there isn’t time to get a true assessment.

“If someone is in your care for two or three months, how do you know for sure, mental-healthwise, what’s going on with them?” Gruchy said. “It took my doctor a long time to make a diagnosis. It was a long process. It wasn’t a shoot-from-the-hip processs. I don’t know how you can conclude so quickly someone was misdiagnosed and over-prescribed medication.”

But Gruchy said it’s best to look at the bigger picture of how to improve inmates’ standard of care.

 

Team approach

To give inmates more choice, he said, another psychiatrist should be hired to work with Craig to create a team-oriented approach.

“It should’ve happened years ago,” said Gruchy, adding that it’s a logical option now that the construction of a new prison seems to be on hold. “The diversity of opinion would produce balance.”

Gruchy noted that creating a rotation of psychiatrists in the province’s prisons was one of the recommendations made in the 2012 peer report, conducted by Philip Klassen, a forensic psychiatrist and assistant professor at the University of Toronto — the same report that found Craig meets acceptable standards of care for inmates.

“The report pointed out that the standard of care should not be substantial variability in and outside prison,” said Gruchy, adding that a close look should be taken to see if any of these recommendations have been implemented.

The other problem, Gruchy said, is that health care at HMP is delivered through adult corrections, not the health-care authorities.

Gruchy suggests uniting the two to have prisons follow the same guidelines.

“There’s a sharp division,” he said. “(HMP) doesn’t have the same stability.”

Dr. Nizar Ladha was also asked to comment on Wednesday’s story, but he declined.

Meanwhile, the reaction to Wednesday’s story continues to grow, with many comments made on The Telegram website and on social media.

Many support Craig, including several colleagues, nurses and even prisoners, while others continue to slam his methods.

One comment from “Bob,” said, “This is a very difficult job with what can be a very challenging population. I have worked with Dr. Craig in this setting and have always felt that he was doing the right thing for the right reasons.”

Another, from “Marquis,” said, “Is this so-called doctor using our prisoners, our sons, to experiment on? … In my opinion, this doctor is frightening and it’s also frightening that he can do this while our government that oversees the provincial prison system turns a blind eye.”