Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Stranger than Fiction: The Joys of Psychiatric Patients

Here's a fun one:  K. v. B.

(I'm using initials for the sake of some anonymity here; even though the decision is actually published online with full names, I nonetheless feel inclined to exercise a bit of sensitivity here.)


K. has a long history of litigation:  She has commenced a number of actions against the police, the attorney general of Canada, and various doctors and psychiatrists based on a variety of applications.  In dismissing one of her actions, the Court remarked that "The Statement of Claim is incomprehensible.  It appears to stem from alleged experimentation with the plaintiff as a subject, involving the implanting of some unidentifiable device."

In another action against a psychiatrist, she alleged negligence in that, when she explained that her issue was that she had been affected by brain waves and probably had a microchip embedded in her body, he diagnosed her with a psychotic illness, and failed to recognize that the cause of her symptoms was that she was the victim of "psychotronic attacks".  (Some kind of "directed energy" weapons...sigh.  No, I don't make these things up.)  She led evidence from, among others, a hypnotherapist from California, a psychotherapist from New York, and a psychologist from Pennsylvania.  Justice Perell dismissed the action on the purely legal analysis that there was no evidence that the defendant psychiatrist had failed to meet the requisite standard of care in Ontario, and noted that the case was not about "whether...the whole discipline of psychiatry is wrong in disregarding psychotronic weapons as a possible cause of mental disturbances."

Dr. B.

Though she has always been self-represented, it seems that she understood that she needed a supporting opinion from someone qualified to speak to standards of Ontario psychiatrists (as opposed to professionals of other disciplines in other jurisdictions), so she went to see Dr. B. to try to get an opinion from him that the previous psychosis diagnosis was incorrect.  (Incidentally, Dr. B. was one of 1500 Ontario psychiatrists she tried to contact.)  Dr. B. administered some standard psychiatric diagnostic tests, and concluded, consistent with the findings of the previous psychiatrists, that she suffered from a delusional disorder.  Needless to say, she wasn't happy with that result.

Likewise unsurprisingly, the Court dismissed her resulting action against Dr. B.


This is a real challenge for the system.  As a lawyer, I get a couple of calls per month from people who have stories which raise questions as to mental health - most frequently involving some large conspiracy of people who are out to destroy them.

I can't assume that a person is delusional.  That is neither my expertise nor my job.  But I'm not about to humour them, either.  The question, "What do you hope that I can do for you?" is an important tool:  One of the common features of these conspiracies involves an inability to identify the conspirators and/or specific actions which would ground legal action.  Which would pretty much tie my hands, even if I were willing to be retained, and assuming that the person had the money to retain me.

But, particularly in more 'accessible' venues, it is very common to see self-represented litigants launching claim after claim against myriad people for perceived wrongs.  It causes the responding parties to hire lawyers and incur costs, and such costs will usually not be recoverable, whether because of the venue, or simply because the plaintiff lacks the resources to satisfy a costs award.

But, while it's a small part of my job, I can't imagine how challenging it would be to make a full career out of dealing with mental illness.


This blog is not intended to and does not provide legal advice to any person in respect of any particular legal issue, and does not create a solicitor-client relationship with any readers, but rather provides general legal information. If you have a legal issue or possible legal issue, contact a lawyer.

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