ACT lawyers urged to join campaign

The Canberra Times, Australia/November 19, 2011

An anti-psychiatric drugs group founded by the Church of Scientology has been trying to drum up business with ACT lawyers.

The Citizens Commission on Human Rights, which maintains it is an independent non-profit organisation, mailed lawyers on the ACT Supreme Court roll this week.

The two-page letter offered government and private lawyers an ''opportunity to increase [their] client base'' by acting in lawsuits against pharmaceutical drug companies.

The letter was accompanied by a DVD, Making a Killing: The Untold Story of Psychotropic Drugging, which disputes medical evidence about the effectiveness of psychiatric drugs and claims they kill 42,000 people each year.

The Church of Scientology is similarly opposed to the use of psychiatric medicines, and its members commit to reject psychology and abstain from psychiatric drugs. The Citizens Commission on Human Rights executive director Shelley Wilkins said the group was independent of the Church of Scientology. ''We're not part of the church, and our funding is largely done by members of the public,'' Ms Wilkins said.

She said the International Association of Scientology gave CCHR International grants to run exhibitions around the world, but the Australian arm was funded by donations.

Ms Wilkins said the group had sent out ''tens and tens and tens of thousands of DVDs''.

The DVD asserts that, in 1967, leading psychiatrists met in Puerto Rico ''to map out their vision for the future''.

This included a plan to ''create by the year 2000 a range of psychiatric drugs regulating every aspect of human behaviour''.

The accompanying letter suggested the new Australian Consumer Law standards, which came into effect in January, could ''open the door to product liability and misrepresentation lawsuits in respect of damage caused by psychotropic medications''.

But ACT Law Society president Noor Blumer said the Australian Consumer Law was simply the national codification of state and territory laws governing trade practices and the sale of goods.

''No new rights were established [and] there has been no new 'door opened' to lawsuits other than what already existed.'' Ms Blumer said the legal profession was often targeted by widespread, unsolicited mail campaigns.

One government lawyer who received the letter said she and her colleagues were irritated at the suggestion they were in the business of trying to ''increase the client base'' of their legal practices.

''It was such a blatant appeal to what they clearly see as the avarice of lawyers,'' she said.

Ms Wilkins said the group had rented a mailing list through a broker to conduct the mail-out, but would not say where the list came from, or who the broker was.

Chief executive of pharmaceutical industry association Medicines Australia Brendan Shaw said mental health technology had developed ''enormous benefits'' for patients over the years.

He said all medications prescribed in Australia underwent a rigorous testing process by the Therapeutic Goods Administration.

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