Government response to nearly 20 years of deaths and injuries at Chelmsford
Private Hospital has been :
- First to try to cover up, by inactivity, the facts of the hundreds of injuries and deaths.
- NSW Health's Complaints Unit took no action being too busy investigating matters such
alleged contaminated goats milk.
- In 1986 the NSW Appeal Court stopped any of the doctors ever appearing before a
disciplinary Tribunal. ( No action could thus be taken against the doctors by the professional regulatory
systems, they continue to practice.)
- In 1988 when pushed by public outrage Government set up a Royal Commission.
- And in 1990 then ignored the Royal Commission's damning findings, MP's saying that it was
now too long ago to do anything.
- The only professional ever to be called before a disciplinary Tribunal over the matter ?... A
barrister acting for CVAG who was accused of questioning the doctors too forcefully in the
- The independent and hence totally unaccountable NSW Director of Public Prosecution (DPP)
also took no action over Royal Commission findings of "deliberate lies under oath",
threatening witnesses, conspiracy, prima facie manslaughter, falsification of death
certificates and patient consent forms.
- In 1993 Independent MP John Hatton when asked by the media if another 'Chelmsford' was
possible replied: "It's not a question of if - just a question of when."
And what is today's situation in NSW for patients who may encounter another
'Chelmsford' ? Probably they will never be heard of publicly at all as
Government now has ways of dealing with complaints...
- In 1993 Government introduced the HCC Act that ignored the Royal Commission
recommendations, and instead put an Independent (and hence unaccountable) Commissioner
in charge of all health services complaints in NSW.
- This new Health Care Complaints Commission, its internal operations and decision making
over complaints being fully exempt from FOI, can block or take action over any complaint as
- The HCC Act introduced new concepts to health care complaints management:
- Conciliation (grief counselling) is a preferred new way of dealing with consumer
- The new Commission does not have to consider all complaints as the old Complaints
Unit had to. Rather because of the way the Act is worded it can 'decline to deal with' a
complaint for any number of reasons.
- The new Commission cannot not recommend any action that would effect NSW
- The mid 1990s saw an effective end to legal aid in NSW for civil cases. So most patients
cannot now access the common law even if they encounter the grossest of medical
negligence. (It typically takes over ten years and around half a million dollars to fight a medical negligence case
up to the High Court. The medical defence organisations in Australia do fight and will spend very large amounts if
they feel a case could effect their liability calculations adversely and effect professional indemnity premiums. NSW
law makes it illegal for a lawyer to agree to fight a case on a contingency basis, where he agrees to take a fixed
percentage of the fee. Instead the NSW law says he may charge a surcharge on his fees for operating on a
contingent basis. And in NSW the loser in a case has to pay the other side's costs. Thus a victim of serious medical
negligence can be placed in a situation where if the victim wins his winnings are more than used up by legal fees
and if he loses he can expect to lose his house and other possessions being forced into bankruptcy. Such cases are
reported in the NSW media from time to time.
- In 1997 The NSW Attorney General's Dept. was considering putting upper limits on what a
patient could sue a doctor or hospital for. ( A reason being given - the public had inflated expectations as
to what medical care could do for them. While the doctor's organisations said that they cannot act as de facto social
- To complain about a medical professional in NSW may even be getting distinctly dangerous
today as new mental health laws (That have been typified by some local human rights groups as Orwell's
"1984" written into NSW Law) allow a person to be removed from any location (including their
home) and subjected against their will to ECT (electro-shock treatment) and enforced drug
treatment, for 6 months at a time, if they are felt to be at risk of endangering their reputation
or financial position.
So a simple act like raising your voice in complaint against the wrong medical professional
can today, at least theoretically, result in a knock on the door of your home later by police
who will arrest you 'for your own good' and take you to a psychiatric hospital as an
involuntary patient for ECT treatment. (This is not that much of an innovation in NSW , as some years
ago a major TV current affairs programme reported that a doctor had been arrested at gun point by police after
having been diagnosed from other doctor's reports and at a distance by two NSW psychiatrists (who never
examined the doctor face to face), as dangerous. The doctor's 'crime' was that he had placed too many patients on a
methadone program. This was thus just a 'turf battle' between various medical professionals using the legal tools
they had available to them by virtue of NSW Law.)
- And NSW MP's do not seem to be of a mind to give ordinary people many rights.
(Australians do not have clear civil rights under a 1900 constitution, passed in London by the
British Parliament ) Having started out as a prison NSW powerholders seem to wish to retain
a basis for maintaining good order and thus NSW inhabitants are told that formal rights are
bad and work against the smooth running of the State. And of course Australians are also
told that they have the best system of voting in the world and thus along with a few
dictatorships around the world Australia retains a system of compulsory voting, that puts a
few people in prison each time for objecting to this by failing to vote. ( Strangely if you look
in an international year book you will not find Australia listed as holding any political
prisoners.) A couple of quotes from recent debate in the upper house of Parliament, the
Legislative Council which is the house of review in NSW, go to illustrate the current
human/civil rights climate in NSW, and what the public are supposed to see as being
'entertainment'. (Martin Place is in Central Sydney and has an open-air performance area, but currently no
In a debate on heroin addiction on 22-10-1997 Hansard reported The Hon.
Robert Baron Rowland Smith MLC as saying:
"... a clampdown on traffickers I would hang them and tougher penalties for
suppliers and I would do the same to them. I would have a hanging every lunchtime
in Martin Place to keep the office workers happy. "
In a debate on 1-4-1998, in support of allowing a government Tribunal to have
the power to place disabled people under Guardianship orders on clinical trials,
The Hon. Elizabeth Kirkby MLC is reported in Hansard as saying:
"Of course the critics of our report are people who once again brought up what
happened at Chelmsford over 30 years ago. The people who went into Chelmsford
were not unable to give informed consent; they went there of their own volition. ...
... I certainly agree that what happened at Chelmsford, which was a medical
disaster of the highest order, should never have occurred."
In reality the deaths in Chelmsford did not all take place 30 years ago or more, as The Hon
Elizabeth Kirkby wished the Parliament to think by saying what she did. Nor did all patients give
informed consent as she claimed. Many were totally uninformed as to what was going to happen to
them, and a least one actually refused to sign a consent form and got drugged and assaulted as a
result by hospital staff. But such matters do not look good for the state of human rights or medicine
in NSW and thus must be covered up in what is to appear in the hallowed official record , in this
For example, in March 1982 a coroner found a prima facie case of criminal negligence against the
Chelmsford doctors, over the death of 26 year old Miriam Podio, who had died under "deep sleep"
extended sedation at Chelmsford.
In reality many of the 'people who went into Chelmsford' had been misdiagnosed, lied to, and
deceived by the Chelmsford doctors and were given strong sedatives to stop them , (as voluntary
patients) from 'absconding' from the hospital. Harrowing accounts exist of family members seeking
help from other doctors to get their relatives out of Chelmsford but failing to be heard, and then
being able to do nothing when told their relative had died in hospital.
Healthy people who trusted doctors got psycho-surgery and "deep sleep" sometimes dieing from
'the treatment', or being left a wreck, over what were probably minor ailments such as the case of a
metal worker who was sent to a Chelmsford doctor because he had an itching behind his eyes.
But to MPs such as the Australian Democrat Leader in NSW, The Hon. Elizabeth Kirkby MLC,
such people gave informed consent. Interestingly in this 1998 debate the Australian Democrats in
NSW were supporting placing yet more people in NSW under the direct power of various
professionals. This time it was to allow mentally disabled people to be used to see if experimental
medical drugs and treatments work or not. Or as it is put in the politically correct speech of the
NSW parliament 'In order to give disabled people access to the latest in medical care'.
So the past indeed seems to have been forgotten. The wheel has come full circle and NSW MPs
are now in effect signing additional conditions for future Chelmsford's into law.
The Chelmsford disaster has proved that medical professionals have very real unsupervised power
of life and death over ordinary members of the NSW public, and operate above the law. The NSW
courts taking no action even when the lives of many patients are recklessly ended.
And some NSW politicians insult Chelmsford Victims covering up the truth via disinformation
speeches to the NSW Parliament.
The 1988-90 Royal Commission failed to even address its full terms of reference. The
psycho-surgery associated with the activities of the Chelmsford doctors has never been
investigated. And indeed may still be going on in NSW for all the public have been told.
The only clear step taken by government after the Royal Commission was to ban the so called
'deep sleep therapy'. But in reality this was an empty act. It just banned a name.
The therapy was the application of drugs and ECT in combination. With a resurgence in the use of
ECT, made even easier in NSW today by new laws that allow ECT to be used on people against
their will as a pre-emptive mental illness treatment measure, a major result of the many deaths and
injuries at Chelmsford Private Hospital now could be said to have been to cause NSW government
to introduce laws that act to prevent any of today's victims from being able to expose the human
rights abuses that they are being subjected to.
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