IndyMedia Article: Dangerous Minds - The HealthQuest/Comcare scandal

The following steps should immediately be taken to restore Australia's interntional reputation as a country that values human and civil rights.

By Laura McNamara, 23 Jan 2006

To the N.S.W. and Federal Government regarding, in particular, HealthQuest and Comcare:

· The government of N.S.W and the Commonwealth Government should permit an international investigative mission led by the World Psychiatric Association (WPA) and composed of acknowledged international experts in the fields of general and forensic psychiatry, criminal law and human rights to visit the Australia, hold workshops and seminars, carry out independent and confidential medical evaluations of a representative selection of persons, visit the offices of Comcare, HealthQuest, etc, and publish a report on their findings and recommendations. In addition, international human rights groups and concerned medical organizations other than the WPA should be allowed freely to investigate the alleged abuses.

· The government should conduct a systematic review of the country's existing national and local-level legislation and administrative regulations governing forensic and employment related psychiatric assessment, interactions between government departments such as the Department of Education, DOCS, Telstra, the Public Service in general, etc and agencies such as HealthQuest and Comcare and the psychiatrists,psychologists and other practitioners, and forced 'medical retirement' of persons determined to be dangerously mentally ill, while their families, friends and own G.P.s have noticed nothing amiss. Aside from clarifying these procedures and assuring the professional independence of psychiatrists, the government should remove all provisions stating or implying that dissident or nonconformist political or other beliefs or workplace disagreements or union activism provide a medically or legally acceptable basis for the diagnosis of severe or dangerous mental illness.

· A coordinated campaign should be carried out throughout the government employment and prosecutorial and court system, to inform employers and judicial officers at all levels that previous policies or practices, whether formal or ad hoc in nature, that either permitted or encouraged involuntary psychiatric examination of persons holding peaceful dissident or other views will no longer be officially tolerated or condoned. Translations of both the WPA's Madrid Declaration and the U.N.'s 1991 Principles should be widely disseminated within the government and judicial systems. The 'right' of public service employers to forcibly 'refer' workers to psychiatrists should be removed.

· The Australian judicial authorities should conduct a comprehensive nationwide review of all cases in which citizens have been diagnosed as severely mentally ill and then psychiatrically abused/medically retired by force/stood down from their jobs, mainly or solely on account of their non-violent viewpoints or activities. All such persons should be relieved of any outstanding departmental charges and should be promptly reinstated to their former positions. Any such persons found, after fresh medical examination, to be suffering from genuine mental illness should be afforded humane and appropriate medical care in a non-forensic setting.

- HealthQuest and Comcare and all other 'government medical facilities' should be disbanded and instead, independent doctors should be brought in for pre-employment medicals. Doctors in the community with no connection to government departments should be employed for this purpose.

- All medical practitioners who can be shown to have lied about the psychiatric condition of public servants should be brought to justice and duly punished.

Picture: 'Australian Idol' - note the identity of the judges, by an eminent New Zealand artist.

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