Christmas thesis strapline: “Functional neurosurgery for intractable mental disorder”

I have recently been engaging on Twitter and by Email with Dr David MB Christmas, Consultant Psychiatrist at the Advanced Interventions Service (formerly the NMD service), NHS Tayside, regarding his 2006 MD thesis ‘Functional neurosurgery for intractable mental disorder: long term effects on mental health, neuropsychological performance, social function and quality of life’.  

Here is a screenshot of Dr Christmas (I haven’t personally had a meeting with the doctor although I have asked for it) from the RCPsych CPD Online page module ‘Neurosurgery and neuromodulation for mental disorder’:

I am a critical voice against neurosurgery for mental disorder and believe it should not be a considered option for treatment of people for whom the drugs don’t work, the ECT doesn’t work and who are desperately seeking relief from mental distress.

I’m not clinically trained and don’t have a medical qualification, however I do have nearly 50 years experience of working with family members in mental distress, on an occasional and at times regular basis.  Eight of my family over 3 generations have engaged with psychiatry, all of us forcibly medicated and some of us subject to ECT.  These are my credentials.

This is the first of what I intend to be a series of blog posts about Dr Christmas’s 471 page Thesis.  I am not sure how it will pan out but I hope to work through the document and discuss points that stand out for me.  I will also publish any responses from Dr Christmas if they transpire, with his permission.  I would prefer a dialogue or debate.

I will try and resist emotional language when writing about the topic of NMD or brain surgery for mental illness, as I describe it.  It won’t be easy as my gut feeling about the procedure is that it’s wrong on every level.  However I want to explore this and to argue why I am justified in feeling this.  

The strapline of the doctor’s thesis I didn’t like from the offset.  The use of the words “functional” in respect of NMD and “intractable” linked to the term “mental disorder”.  For NMD, or anterior cingulotomy as performed at DAIS, is a procedure using an electrical current through a probe to destroy brain tissue:

There is no international agreement on the best target site for the probe” MIND website

The term “mental disorder” is used in mental health acts, in my opinion, to justify compulsory treatment.  I was given a (schizo) disorder label in 2002, it still sits in my notes even although I have made a full recovery.  I contend because it wasn’t either accurate or true.  It was used to justify the cocktail of drugs I was prescribed which depressed me, gave me suicidal impulse, bone loss, high blood pressure, panic attacks, restlessness and eventually 3 fractures on my fibula when walking down a stair at a job interview.

The psychoses I experienced, after childbirth and at the menopause, had their roots in trauma and life transitions.  They weren’t to do with brain cells but were influenced by external situations and internal responses.  The psychiatric drugs exacerbated the situation and caused further health issues. 

More anon.

 

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