Old medical negligence case brought back to life

Date: Jan 18, 2019

More than 50 years after the scandal first broke news, the case of Chelmsford Private Hospital and its shocking deep sleep therapy (DST) and electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) has been brought back to life. In recent months, an author who has written a book about the events is being sued for defamation from two of Chelmsford's former doctors.

Background of the case

Chelmsford Private Hospital was a psychiatric hospital specialising in DST and ECT methods. These were used on patients suffering from a range of psychiatric and non-psychiatric illnesses. In the years between the 1960s and 1970s, 24 patient deaths were attributed to these treatments. These revelations prompted a Royal Commission which investigated the establishment's doctors and methods used.

Within the report, medical professionals expressed their opinions, including that of Professor Roland Thorp, a pharmacologist from the state. Here, he explained that the doses of drugs administered before treatments were dangerous. Other reports stated that doctors forged death certificates, lied to patients and caused one patient brain damage as well as the various deaths.

Despite the findings, a jury never heard the charges as the High Court permanently stayed the proceedings due to the deaths occurring too long ago.

Present day problems

The case of Chelmsford Private Hospital has caught the attention of the media and many medical professionals over the years. More recently, in his book titled 'Fair Game: The Incredible Untold Story of Scientology in Australia', an Australian Broadcasting Corporation journalist gives his insight into this controversial topic.

However, his allegations have left two former Chelmsford doctors angry, leading to a hefty defamation case at the Supreme Court. The author must now prove that his accusations are true or risk high court costs.

The book, published by Harpers and Collins, has argued against the doctors and court stating it would be virtually impossible to prove the truth of the claims due to the amount of time that had passed. They also compared the court proceedings to the original charges, stating that the doctors had theirs dropped for the same reason, so why couldn't theirs.

The court responded saying the author and publisher could not rely on the conclusions of the Royal Commission. Instead, in order to defend themselves, they would need to anew that all accusations are true. 

To this day, medical negligence is a common occurrence in NSW. If you're suffering with the aftermath of medical misconduct, get in touch with the lawyers at Gerard Malouf & Partners today. We can help you seek justice and compensation for your trauma. 

Call us now on 1800 004 878 to book a free appointment with one of my compensation experts, or email your enquiry.