News about the news
Yesterday I was interviewed by Louise Milligan, investigative reporter for Channel 7 News. Barring any major news events, a report about this issue will be aired on the news next Monday night, 25th July. It will be really interesting to hear what the responses are from the general public.
Response from the hospital
On Monday I received the formal 'Particulars of Defence' document from the hospital for our court case. I was particularly interested in some of their replies, such as...
A comment which seems to imply that I don't actually have rights to good treatment or freedom... I quoted a section of our Mental Health Act, specifically "(4)(2)(a) People with a mental disorder are given the best possible care and treatment appropriate to their needs in the least possible restrictive environment and least possible intrusive manner consistent with the effective giving of that care and treatment".
The hospital's response was that this passage is just a "legislative aim" and that it "does not create rights enforceable in this tribunal or any other jurisdiction". Oh, OK then. I wonder if being made involuntary is also just a legislative aim? And if this is true, why is it that what authorities can do to us is 'law' but our rights are just 'aims'?
Can you make sense of this logic??? I claimed that the hospital forced me to quit smoking against my will. The hospital denies this, but does admit that I was not permitted to smoke in their buildings or grounds, and being an involuntary patient, I was also not permitted to leave the hospital grounds. Is not one a consequence of the other? And whether your consequence is intended or not, surely you are still responsible for it? "Gee officer, I deny that I was speeding, but I do admit that I pushed my foot on the accelerator a bit hard..."
Denials and delusions
From the balance of the hospital's reply, I can only conclude a deep-seated denial of reality, and a delusional belief that these smoking bans are having any kind of positive impact. The hospital:
- denies that my human rights were infringed
- denies that I was unable to comply with the ban
- denies that I was punished when caught smoking
- denies that I was publicly chastised
- denies that I suffered ineffective and harmful treatment
- denies that the ban had no impact on me actually quitting
- denies that I witnessed a patient get hit after offering oral sex to another patient
in exchange for a cigarette - and then says this is irrelevent (!)
- denies that I experienced an increase in symptoms because of the ban
- denies that I did not call for help during further relapses because of fear of the ban.
Oh dear. Well, we have mediation next week, which should be a great opportunity to thrash out these issues in more detail. I am looking forward to the chance to actually talk about the issue face to face. I really do hope that we can find a solution in mediation, it would be so much more civilised than continuing legal action.
Some good news
I heard yesterday that Eastern Health have revised their policies about smoking bans, which includes the Austin Hospital lifting its smoking ban. Thumbs up to Eastern Health for putting consumer interests ahead of poorly conceived policy!
I've also heard reports that St Vincents Hospital have reversed their ban and even installed a smoking shelter in their courtyard. If anyone can confirm this, please let me know!
Feedback from the Trenches
Don't get too mad, or they'll think you're mad... I spoke to a consumer this week who was admitted to the psych ward over the weekend. He was forced to quit, and after 3 days of withdrawal he finally got to see the consultant psychiatrist. He told the psychiatrist to please not assume that his extreme anger was due to his mental health condition because he was going nuts without his cigarettes. The reply from the psychiatrist? "Don't tell me how to do my job". Hang in there buddy.
If physical health is a priority, why not deal with the real issues... A group of consumers talked with me about the campaign last Wednesday. All of the women wanted to know why it was that if hospitals were really so concerned about our physical health (as they claim to be in their justifications for smoking bans), why they aren't proactively managing the health impacts of the medications they prescribe? Women talked about developing morbid obesity, diabetes and other serious conditions as side effects of their medication. They all said that no preventative medical treatment was provided for these conditions, despite them being being common and well known side effects. Any thoughts?
Thanks for all the support... Thank you so much to all the people who are emailing me with messages of support. Please keep sending them! This is a tough campaign, but it really helps my strength to know how important this issue is to so many of you. But stop telling me I'm 'courageous' - it makes me nervous!
And a special thank you to the mental health professionals who have sent messages of support. It's great to know that so many of you are on our side, and that you understand the ludicrousness of these inhumane policies. For all of you who risk reprimand but still 'turn a blind eye' when you see people smoking at hospital, thank you for your humanity.
- Johnny Weismuller