Monash Medical Centre (1996)
I was locked up again, this time at the Monash Medical Centre in Clayton (Melbourne) on 29 February 1996. Sara was at home with me at the time and later went on the radio with me to say what had happened. She was told by the police and CAT team workers that I was “deluded” because I thought I had my medical registration, and there was an authority for me to be taken to the hospital. Once I had been taken away Sara looked through my papers and found that I did, in fact, have a Medical Registration certificate, dated 21 February 1996. I was, she realised, registered.
The hospital was acting on orders of the Chief Psychiatrist, Carlyle Perera, who is Sri Lankan and was known to my father. My father had written this letter to Carlyle Perera on 23.1.96:
“Dear Dr Perera,
I’m sorry to get you involved in this but I am facing a major problem with my son, a doctor now off the Register [I wasn’t] who has a serious psychotic illness which does not appear to me to be adequately treated. I am turning to you for help because I have explored every other avenue with absolutely no positive results.
You are probably already familiar with the problem (I gather you arranged for him to see a psychiatrist at Monash – which, according to Romesh, he has no intention of doing).
Permit me to summarise the situation.
He has had a psychotic illness since around December 1994 which came to a head around March 1995. After several weeks of consultation and observation with Dr Thomas of the Inner South area a CAT team was sent out and he was admitted to the Royal Park Hospital. I think there was a problem in obtaining a bed in the secure ward and he was transferred to an open ward.
As expected, he took off from the hospital and appeared in Canberra determined to see Carmen Lawrence and put to her the world shattering discoveries he had made and his ideas about how medicine should be practiced. He was picked up by police outside Parliament House and taken to the Woden Valley Hospital where he was admitted to an open ward and later, when the risk of his leaving was pointed out, to the secure ward from which he was discharged after a period of 3 days.
He was allowed to return to Melbourne (where his ex-wife and child live), picked up again by the CAT team again [sic] and admitted as an involuntary patient to the Royal Park Hospital. He appealed to the mental Health Board which validated his involuntary status.
Amazing though it may seem, he took off again, this time from a supposedly secure ward. He got on a coach, left the state and headed off for Brisbane where we live and appeared on our doorstep with essentially nothing other than the clothes he was wearing.
I got him some clothes [he gave me some of his old shirts] paid the bills he had run up trying to get here [the coach fare was $150.00, which a friend in Melbourne paid for, since my accounts had been frozen] and observed him. The fact that he was suffering from a psychotic illness of a manic sort was obvious even to me, a non-psychiatrist. [The diagnosis of mania was disproved during my weeks incarcerated at the Prince Charles Hospital, but rather than giving me a clean bill of health the psychiatrist John Bowles claimed that I had a paranoid psychosis and was paranoid about my father].”
Coordinated with my father’s letters, my sister’s boyfriend Robert Purssey also wrote in February and March 1996 to Carlyle Perera, Bill Robinson and the psychiatrists at Monash, sending copies of his correspondence to the Medical Board, in the hope of sabotaging my medical career (as my father did, also). In these letters he presented his own perspective and also took an arrogant and dismissive attitude to my work and my suffering as an involuntary patient, from the drugs that had been injected into me, my repeated incarcerations despite being of sound mind and the ongoing smear campaign my family conducted against me.
Robert had played a key role in my initial admission to Royal Park – it was he who made the critical phone call that got me locked up on the night of 7.4.1995. When I left the hospital without authority and drove to Canberra hoping to see Carmen Lawrence and Barry Jones (the health and science ministers) Robert admits to having taken two days off work (“compassionate leave”) to try and track me down, which included calls to the Federal Police at Parliament House that I was an escaped “manic” patient who may attack the health minister. When I was discharged from Woden Valley Hospital after 4 days observation without drugs (and judged by Dr Gupta to be sane) and returned to Melbourne, it was Robert who called the CAT team saying I had returned. I had come home to an empty house, since my wife Sue and daughter Ruby were still holidaying in Spain with my mother (who paid for the trip with my father’s approval). I was very relieved to be home and went next door to pick up our dog from our next-door neighbours, Sid and Mavis. I didn’t suspect that they had been told to ring Robert if I came to the house and they did so (without warning me). Robert didn’t ring me to find out how I was. Instead, he phoned the CAT team and I was visited by two police men with a CAT team worker and I was taken back to the Royal Park Hospital, where I was kept in the decrepit Bleuler Ward for two weeks until I escaped again.
He wrote to John Bowles of the Prince Charles Hospital (20.6.1995):
“The only reason he was swiftly apprehended on the occasion of arrival in Canberra and upon return to Melbourne was my near full-time phone consultations with police and psychiatric authorities in Canberra and Melbourne, something I am clearly not capable of doing from Melbourne in my current job, and I wonder whether any other person would be in a position or with the motivation for such a task. I required compassionate leave twice for this purpose”.
Robert is now proclaiming the benefits of “self compassion” as a practitioner of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). He purports to be promoting “mindfulness”, “meditation” (which he says should not be associated with hippies and people wearing kaftans, as if they are) and has promoted, in a lecture published on YouTube, a mindfulness app called “Buddhify”. Ironically, in 1995, he got me committed for arguing with him that Buddhism provided a better model for psychiatry than Western psychiatry does. The truth is that selfishness (self compassion) needs no encouragement, unlike genuine compassion (caring for others or putting others ahead of oneself).
At Monash I was seen by a tall, grim Polish psychiatry registrar by the name of Roman Krysztofiak, whose English was not good. Krysztofiak misrepresented my views after I debated with him, writing in the discharge summary (12.3.1996) that:
“About a year ago he ‘decided’ to change is personality and lifestyle. As a medical practitioner he decided to stop using any medications for his patients and treated them with other methods: “holistic way, using Buddhism etc”. Finally he ceased to practice and he then sold his practice”.
This is absolute nonsense. The medical records of Willow Lodge Medical Centre, where I was the main doctor show that I never stopped prescribing medications, though I was more judicious about their use. I did not preach Buddhism at work, though I had told both Krysztofiak and Robert Purssey that Buddhism provided a better model for psychotherapy than Western psychiatry. I never put this view into practice, however, though it did inform my view that personality is not fixed , and can change for the positive with effort. In his notes Krysztofiak wrote that I thought Western medicine should be replaced by “Buddyizm”, and that this was a sign of B.A.D. BAD is an acronym for Bipolar Affective Disorder, and I was again said to be manic. I did say that I tried to adopt a holistic approach to the diagnosis and treatment of my patients, but this meant to me looking at the whole individual rather than limiting ones attention to the parts. I explained that I was not an advocate of herbs, vitamins, homeopathy, naturopathy and other “alternative treatments” that are often associated with “holistic medicine”.
In his discharge summary Krysztofiak presented the “Mental State Examination” as a list:
- A short Sri Lankan man, with good hygiene, co-operative but getting angry easily
- Affect “high”, feels angry
- Speech – overtalkative, pressure of speech, pre-occupied with legal aspect of the admission, paranoid idea, especially his family and doctors are plotting against him, grandiose – an excellent artist, scientist, ‘an expert in psychiatry’
- No perceptual disturbances
- Cognitive intact
- No insight
- Judgement impaired
Also on 29 February, the social worker Ruth Laughlin, who came to my house with police wrote:
“Female friend, Sarah, helped him to abscond from Royal Park on two occasions. Suggests that he should not be given permission to leave the ward with his friends as he is unlikely to return.”
Krysztofiak’s boss and the psychiatrist in charge of me was Associate Professor Ross Martin, who was the acting director of the unit, but has since been demoted and is now only an “adjunct lecturer” at Monash and no longer an associate professor. This doesn’t surprise me. He seemed timid and anxious, but also passive-aggressive. He kept telling the registrar lies about me that he’d gathered from my family, but when I interrupted him and tried to correct him about matters of fact, he accused me of “going off the point”. He later reported that I had “pressure of speech” and “flight of ideas”, symptoms of mania, when he was asked to give evidence against me at the Medical Practitioner’s Board Formal Hearing, which was held in July-August 1996.
After writing to the Chief Psychiatrist my father got his friend Chelvarayan Barr-Kumarakulasinghe, who goes as “Dr Barr”, to make the phone call to Monash to get me locked up. From the FOI documents it appears that Barr rang up on 29.2.1996 (the day I was admitted) and said that there was “deterioration in [my] mental state”, that I was “paranoid and litigatious” [sic] and reporting unspecified “change in behaviour with child” and “wife stopping access”. This all came from my father and Robert. Sue had just returned from a fortnight in Brisbane, with Ruby. Prior to that I had been looking after Ruby three days a week (she hadn’t yet started school) but Sue sent me a typed letter saying that she was cutting me off from contact with Ruby, supposedly because of the “vitriolic abuse” I was subjecting my father to.
I was locked up for 2 weeks at Monash, during which Sara visited me frequently. It was not as traumatic as my previous incarcerations for this reason. The haloperidol injections crippled me, however, and I was in a sad state when I was discharged under a CTO to be administered by a Hungarian psychiatrist, whose English was not good, by the name of Andras Perenyi. Perenyi died in 2016. His obituary says that “his natural courage created the condition to make himself a respectful doctor in a different country”. I think his friend who wrote the obituary meant “respectable”. He was certainly not “respectful”. The obituary also says that he participated in clinical trials for psychotropic drugs, had a good sense of humour and remained a “proud Hungarian”.
Andras Perenyi did not share his sense of humour with me. Maybe I was one of the people he was doing antipsychotic drug trials on, but I wasn’t told about it. What I do know is that he ordered abusive injections of haloperidol to be injected into me, although I was severely Parkinsonian.
Sara has described my state as if “all the life had been drained out” of me when I was discharged from Monash. I was stiff, slow and lethargic and lay on the sofa all day. The injections incapacitated me until I won an MHRB hearing at Monash and was discharged off the CTO in May that year. Two years later, in 1998, I was again locked up under Ross Martin at Monash. This time he injected me with haloperidol again but had changed his diagnosis to one of “delusional disorder”.
Immediately after I was locked up at Monash in 1996, Robert came around to my house with my ex-wife Sue. He came into the house after forcing a window open, and ransacked my possessions, taking all Ruby’s toys, books and clothes to give to Sue, as well as all the original diagrams and notes I had made on mind-body medicine, psychiatry, psychology and integrative science, copying them and sending them to the Monash psychiatrists with a letter addressed to Ross Martin. It begins:
“Please find enclosed copies of ‘papers’, letters and other writings of Romesh Senewiratne (D.o.B 22.9.1960) collected when access was gained at his house (bonded and leased by his mother) on Sunday 3.3.1996 for recovery of many of his daughter’s clothes and a number of my textbooks. While I appreciate that limited time might preclude comprehensive consideration of this material, I should like to draw your attention in particular to a number of areas.
“‘Brief Chronology’ and ‘Chronology of Events’ give an essential overview of Romesh’s perspective of his illness and treatment, and although much of the factual information is rather at odds with others’ accounts it should enormously assist further treatment approaches.
“In ‘Hypomania’ which follows on from ‘Chronology of Events’ Romesh cogently argues that imprecise usage of operationalised diagnostic terms has rather confused his understanding of what kind of condition he has been recommended for – ‘hypomania’ in DSMIV and ICD10 being excluded by marked impairment in social or occupational functioning (both), psychotic features (both) or hospitalisation (DSMIV). It might save or at least refocus tortuous circular arguments with Romesh to clarify with him exactly which diagnostic category within which classificatory scheme is felt to be most appropriate with due regard to the operationalised criteria.”
‘Operationalised’ is an example of psychiatric jargon and Robert was training to write in such jargon. It shows what uncritical, submissive thinking when studying psychiatry does to ones processes of logic, rationality and lucidity.