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Thursday, 30 June 2011

Marathons and motorbikes.

Marathon runners put themselves at risk of cardiac failure. It’s a completely selfish activity that can use up precious health resources on self-inflicted injuries. And worse, they smell. Who hasn’t been forced to breathe in a whiff of ‘BO’ as a runner pounded past you? Don’t I have a right to breathe air that isn’t drenched in other people’s foul odours? I suspect these poor deluded runners are so overpowered by endorphins that their decision-making capacities have been compromised. It’s in their – and our – best interest to ban marathons.

Motorbike riders are another completely irresponsible group. Not only does their ‘hobby’ put themselves at serious risk of injury or even death, but the rest of us too! The health system is already stretched without people taking ridiculous risks. And the emissions of their bikes are terrible – noise AND air pollution.

Why don’t we BAN motorbikes and marathon running? It would be in everyone’s best interests – including these poor deluded individuals who don’t know any better.

Maybe it’s because of these concepts called freedom and self-determination.

There’s a radical idea that all humans have the right to self-determination. To make choices that others may not agree with. To make mistakes, even!

Maybe it’s also because life necessarily involves a degree of risk. Risk is not necessarily bad. Risk also brings with it a confirmation of life, the opportunity for growth, and an inherent dignity.

By the way, I don’t actually have any issue with marathon runners or bikers – go for it, my friends. Feel the thrill.

I guess I was just pondering the new Gandhi quote I’ve found, and that led me to think of metaphors for the situation of smoking psychiatric patients.

The metaphors may be flawed, but I hope the thought sparkles.

"Freedom is not worth having if it does not include the freedom to make mistakes"
~ Gandhi

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Fundraising for legal expenses - please help if you can.

Hi everyone!

I've decided that it's in my interests to seek some specialist legal advice about my upcoming hearing.  While I can't afford full representation, one or two meetings might be manageable.  I believe this will cost me around $400, so I've set up a little Paypal 'Donate' button on this blog (just scroll down the page to item 5).  If you are able to contribute anything at all - even a couple of dollars, please help out.  Any money donated will be used for legal expenses to fight this campaign.  Assuming I do get donations, I'll publish the amounts and what they have been spent on.

"Freedom is not worth having if it does not include the freedom to make mistakes"  ~ Gandhi


Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Support from 'VMIAC' and 'Consumers in Action'

I have just received this fantastic letter of support for the Smoking Mad campaign (see below). Thank you so much to everyone at Consumers in Action!  By working together I believe we CAN get these inhumane and cruel bans on psychiatric wards lifted. Having support from non-smoking consumers is particularly gratifying!

I now also have official support for my campaign from the Victorian Mental Illness Awareness Council (VMIAC). Consumer advocates at VMIAC constantly have to witness the extreme distress and risk that these bans cause mental health patients, and they are keen to see the bans lifted.

Thank you to everyone. Please remember to complete a survey, and to tell other people about them as well. I need lots of responses from consumers who have been affected by the ban in order for the research to be considered seriously.

Hospitals may have the legal right to deprive us of liberty – but we have the right to be treated with dignity, humanity, safety and fairness!

Hi Indigo,
I have been asked to pass along personal messages of support from a Western Suburbs consumer group in Melbourne, 'Consumers in Action', who have heard of your struggle against compulsory cessation of smoking in psychiatric hospitals.
Even though half the group do not smoke, all people present felt your work concerned an important human rights issue which they would be keen to support.
And they also wanted me to thank you personally for your effort, courage and organisation. And express their personal wish to help your campaign in any way they can.
They will be circulating the survey and publicising the campaign.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Serving papers today!

I have finished writing my 'particulars of complaint' as ordered by the tribunal, and today I am serving them on the hospital. It's taken a lot of work to identify all of the acts and sections which the hospital have breached because of their smoking bans, but I think I have it all sorted out.

Not having legal representation has left me feeling rather nervous about whether my paperwork correctly addresses the issues. I can't help but think that this process of claiming discrimination is heavily weighted in favour of discriminators. Of course discrimination is more often committed by large organisations with substantial resources for legal advice. And of course those complaining of discrimination are often financially disadvantaged and unable to access legal advice.

It feels like access to justice is very uneven. Let's hope that the outcomes of this case prove me wrong!

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

We have lift off!

Hi everyone. Sorry for the delay in posting - it's been a wild week.

Well, I went to the directions hearing at VCAT on Monday. The hospital's lawyer asked for my complaint to remain 'struck out' because it was frivolous. Naturally I argued against that and the deputy president agreed that the complaint had enough merit to justify a full hearing! The hearing date has been set for 27th October this year.

In the meantime, I need to file the particulars of my complaint, next month there will be mediation (that should be interesting!), then witness statements get filed.

While I got the outcome I was hoping for, I did find the whole process very disempowering. The deputy president asked the hospital's lawyer to explain what the case was about, rather than me! I was given very little opportunity to speak which I found extremely frustrating. And again I was told that smoking is not 'an attribute acknowledged under the Equal Opportunity Act' - however the deputy president did listen to one of my three arguments regarding this. A number of legal points were raised which I need to investigate. I think that I may need to hire a lawyer - even just for a few sessions - to check out some of the legal details - so watch out for a legal fundraising campaign to start on my Facebook site this weekend...

The campaign for freedom and fairness lives to fight another day!