Ireland Loses A Champion For Human Rights – Last Updated: Wednesday, February 24, 2010, 14:00

Death of controversial psychiatrist


The death has taken place of the controversial psychiatrist and psychotherapist Dr Michael Corry, who caused anger last year over comments he made about the dangers of antidepressants. He was aged 60.

Dr Corry was reported to the Medical Council following an appearance on the Late Late Show in October 2009 in which he said side effects from antidepressants could tip somebody into suicidal behaviour and homicidal behaviour.

He was speaking following the fatal stabbing of 22-year-old Sebastian Creane by Shane Clancy in Bray, Co Wicklow last August. On the show, Clancy’s mother and stepfather alleged that antidepressants had caused him to stab three people and then himself.

Dr Corry was heavily criticised for his comments on the show and a formal complaint was made by senior psychiatrist Professor Timothy Dinan of University College, Cork, to the Medical Council accusing him of “publicity seeking of an appalling kind.”

Dr Corry, a co-founder of the Institute of Psychosocial Medicine in Dun Laoghaire and of the privately-funded Clane Hospital in Co Kildare, also established the Wellbeing Foundation, an organisation which campaigns for psychiatric patients’ rights.

He was a long-term campaigner for the abolition of electro convulsive therapy (ECT) and in 2008 led a campaign to introduce a private members Bill in the Seanad which would prohibit the involuntary administration of ECT to patients without their informed consent.

Dr Corry died at his home in Claravale Co Wicklow on Monday following a short illness. He is survived by his partner Áine, children Louise, Amelia and Julian, their mother Anne, his brothers Martin and John, and sisters Anne and Sr. Premula,

His funeral service will take place at the Victorian Chapel at Mount Jerome Crematorium, Harold’s Cross in Dublin at 2.30pm tomorrow.

One Response

  1. Loving warrior, gentle rebel

    Michael Corry, 1949 – 2010

    Dr Michael Corry died at his home in Clara Vale, Ireland, on 22 February 2010 after a short illness.

    He was a fearless campaigner for the rights of mental health service users and all those suffering psychological distress; an opponent of bio-psychiatry and its reliance on psycho-pharmacology; an implacable campaigner for the abolition of ECT as a so-called ‘therapy’; and a compassionate healer appreciated by thousands of patients.

    After qualifying in 1973, Michael’s career spanned work as a hospital doctor in Uganda in the Amin era before he qualified as a psychiatrist and psychotherapist, work as a public service psychiatrist in St Brendan’s Hospital, Dublin, and private practice.

    His imagination and desire to get things done powered both his work as director of the EU-sponsored Resocialisation Project at St Brendan’s in the early 1980s, and as a founder of the privately-funded Clane Hospital in Kildare, where he served as consultant psychiatrist from the early days.

    He was a founder of the Institute of Psychosocial Medicine in Dun Laoghaire, Co Dublin, in 1987, which developed from a four-partner practice into an organisation with over 20 practitioners and nationwide renown as a healing centre, and which also provides training courses and encourages research and advocacy.

    In June 2004 Michael began a series of articles on depression in the Irish Times which led to the establishment of the monthly Depression Dialogues seminars which he moderated with his partner, Dr Aine Tubridy, and to the launch of the depressiondialogues website on St. Valentine’s Day 2005.

    In 2006 he, together with a number of mental health campaigners who supported his existential approach to the treatment of psychological distress, set up The Wellbeing Foundation to pursue the aim of substituting an experiential, holistic and compassionate approach to mental health for the drug-based and often dangerous and ineffective approach of conventional psychiatry.

    The Foundation’s successful conference in October 2006, attended by almost 700 people, helped open a public debate on mental health difficulties and on modes of treatment which had previously been virtually absent. The Dialogues, the conference, and continued interventions by Dr Corry and others were partly responsible for animating a wider patients’ movement, or survivors movement as many former patients prefer, and placing increasing pressure on conventional biopsychiatry which had enjoyed an easy ride until then.

    Michael’s work in campaigning for an end to electro-shock ‘therapy’ led to a private members Bill being introduced into the Senate in 2008 which would bar the forced use of ECT — use without informed consent. While the Government did not accept the Bill as proposed, Minister for Mental Health John Moloney has started a consultation process which may lead to the first steps towards ending this practice.

    Michael’s courage in prosecuting his ‘causes’ was immense. He had the quality of being willing, immediately and without hesitiation, to go the last mile for something he believed in, or for a friend or family member, no matter the cost to himself. For example, when he discovered that the then Eastern Health Board had diverted EU funding for his pilot Resocialisation Project in 1983, leaving it unable to continue its work of preparing long-stay, institutionalised patients for normal life, the subsequent fight was explosive. Rather than continue in an organisation which expected him to accept and collude in what he saw as theft from his clients, Michael resigned, with no job offer and no other practice.

    On many occasions he put his head above the parapet on behalf of patients and their rights, and against what he saw as malpractice by psychiatrists or other doctors — over-prescribing by GPs of drugs carrying serious risks, such as SSRIs like Seroxat or Cymbalta, was a continuing theme. He was not afraid to be controversial in his pursuit of change and of justice for the psychologically distressed, nor of the consequences, however threatening. Upholders of the status quo referred Michael to the Medical Council on several occasions, but none of the referrals ever came to anything.

    If opposition is any sign, then Michael’s campaigns certainly rattled the ‘great and the good’ of Irish psychiatry. Professor Patricia Casey sued him and RTE for libel in 2005, a case settled by the broadcaster, and Professor Ted Dinan of UCC made a complaint to the Fitness to Practice Committee of the IMC over his public comments on the role of SSRIs in the murder/suicide carried out by Shane Clancy in Bray last year. Many of their colleagues opposed the campaign to bar forced administration of ECT, despite Irish practice in this regard breaching WHO guidelines on informed consent and falling far below best practice in comparable jurisdictions.

    Above all, his patients loved him, and there were thousands. Their tributes since he died emphasise again and again his compassion, his concern, his wisdom and his exclusive focus on their need for healing. While his consulting room was entirely private, these qualities could be seen at the Dialogues meetings, where patients, relatives of troubled people seeking some illumination, or those needing advice, found an equally safe space where they could confide, share their difficulties, and draw on others’ support. Even without any formal protocol in operation, the effect was healing, as many who attended testify. His obvious and deep compassion was the secret, as it was also the foundation for his commitment to advocacy and campaigning — he was a rare being, loveable, inspiring and thoughtful, a loving warrior and a gentle rebel.

    — Basil Miller
    Head of Communications with The Wellbeing Foundation and a long-time close friend of Dr Michael Corry

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