Garth Daniels wants to be a photographer – to capture a moment of exquisite beauty or a timeless truth. Garth Daniels wants to be free.
In his very neat bedroom at his parent’s Melbourne home is a poster of Nelson Mandela looking out – “There is no easy walk to freedom anywhere.” Garth Daniels knows this to be true; after twelve excruciating years of being drugged, imprisoned without trial, forced into unlawful clinical tests, abused by the Victoria Mental Health system and seen his family fight to the last cent to free him - there is no easy walk - Garth Daniels is still not free.
His parents, Marilyn and Bernard left a repressive South Africa divided brutally by apartheid when Garth was only five. It was to provide a freer life in a country that better cherished the rights of individuals regardless of your ethnic origins: Bernard is of part Kalahari heritage in amongst an exotic mix of other nations. Garth’s parents saw first hand how police beat suspects, how the legal system distorted justice and how the mental health facilities in South Africa were institutes of torture and housed some of the most despicable crimes in apartheid’s inglorious history. But Australia would be different. It was a country that offered hope to their children and Bernard wanted, like any parent, to provide every opportunity for their future wellbeing.
In 1996, after a party, being like many a 21 year old has been, slightly stoned from one too many joints, Garth Daniels felt slightly unwell and presented to Maroondah Hospital. From what was a rudimentary visit quickly collapsed Garth Daniels into a 12 year nightmare that is still not over. At a stroke of a pen, without need for charging, without trial, Garth Daniels became an involuntary mental health patient and against his knowledge, his parent’s knowledge, without consent, he was given PharMa Drugs (Rxs') usually resevered for persons diagnosed as Schizophrenic - when all he had was a drug induced headache. In 1998 , not having fully recovered from the massive "overdose " of Chlorpromazine and excessive number of intra-muscualr injections and treatment emergent Neuroleptic Malignant Syndrome (NMS) was forcibly and unlawfully placed into a clandestine drug trial involving the highly controversial Zyprexa made by pharmaceutical behemoth Eli Lilly.
Zyprexa has been linked with triggering strokes, exacerbating suicidal tendencies; in fact there lists of over 150 known adverse side effects to this drug of which Garth Daniels has been unfortunate enough to experience many of them over the years. But he is not alone. Ely Lilly recently settled a class action in the US for nearly $700 million for not putting warning labels on Zyprexa bottles stating that it could cause humans diabetes. It is a drug that has been removed from use in many countries, in Asia and Europe yet it shows up constantly in mental health facilities and pharmacies around Australia: Eli Lilly still help fund many clinical trials, conferences and scholarships in this country and around the world. They are also the company who brought us Prozac until it too disappeared under the massive weight of class actions around the globe brought about by it linked with increased suicide and gun rampages. Despite all this seemingly damning evidence against Zyprexa, it still forms the corner stone of Ely Lilly’s global sales pouring over a billion dollars annually into their coffers.
After 1996 Garth Daniels’ mental health spiralled downwards into a never ending abyss of more psychiatrists, more involuntary stays in Eastern Health facilities, then in 1998 Zyprexa, more “episodes,” more misery for himself and his now helpless family. The simple fact is that Garth Daniels has never recovered from that initial prescription of drugs and drug trials and looks as if he never will. But mental illness, whether caused by dubious drug trials, over recommended levels of Zyprexa, forced imprisonment is still not the real issue. Human Rights need to be extended to all human beings and this includes those subject to the Mental Health Act. In short, that is everybody whether you, family or friends believe you are mentally well or not- it is not your decision – it’s the doctors and at Eastern Health those doctors in charge are South Africans who don’t care much for questioning their treatment methods, their massive drug doses and behavioural throwback to apartheid practices when supposedly treating patients compassionately in an Australian mental health facility.
In 2006 Garth was incarcerated involuntarily at the Austin Hospital for over 6 months without access to legal rights, friends, parents and suffered terribly as a consequence. Whilst under a hospital which boasts the by line “Your partner in health” he was overdosed on Zyprexa exacerbating many of the already hideous side effects compounded even more by loneliness and fear whilst in solitary confinement. Quite frankly Joseph Mengele would be a more comforting partner in health.
Not satisfied with attempting to destroy Garth’s health, Austin Hospital then took Bernard and Marilyn Daniels’ to VCAT in an attempt to strip Bernard of his power of medical attorney and their right to be guardian over Garth. Put simply it was a disgrace that in Victoria 2006, boasting of freedom and supporting family, here was an instance where Austin Health sought to destroy the one vestige of hope Garth Daniels was clinging to. The Victorian government who were well aware of the issues and the case have stood by and allowed this evil to happen. Mercifully VCAT realised that it was manipulative and indeed unnecessary for any action involving the family break up to be even considered and threw the case out. What happened next has continued a nightmare under the auspices of Victorian Mental Health, Victoria Government and those at Maroondah and Box Hill hospitals.
In the meantime the Victorian government who are well aware of the issues and the medical and legal cases involving Garth Daniels have stood by and allowed this evil to happen. The ghost of Edmund Bourke must prowl the corridors of the Health Department and Premier's office screaming, "FOR EVIL TO FLOURISH IT TAKES GOOD MEN TO DO NOTHING." In the case it has taken many good people to do absolutely nothing.
This story has also been bouncing off the walls of 'The Age" – a media outlet constantly trumpeting that it is one of the world's leading papers. Apart from a couple of castrated articles written with no names and really nil impact. They were unable to generate any indignity among a wider media, absolutely nothing has been written of this in the wider press or exposed in the electronic media. Considering that it took the journalist Mark Russell nearly a year of constant urging to eventually write such a veiled piece for the "Sunday Age" is in itself shameful. It is shameful mainly on behalf of the Age's legal team who have constantly suppressed the article. It has meant that despite knowing of Garth Daniels dreadful plight for over two years, "The Age" has remained silent and Garth Daniels has been left to suffer and his father been made to fight for his son's safety alone.
Eventually Garth is released to allow a gradual withdrawal of Zyprexa side effects and entered Maroondah Hospital in January 2008 seeking medical assistance and was immediately and involuntarily incarcerated at the stroke of a doctor’s pen. Plunged into solitary confinement for a month, where he was allowed to shout for five minutes a day through a thick door at his distraught parents, helpless and unable to save him. Garth Daniel’s was confined in a cell for 24 hours a day where he ate, drank, urinated and defecated in the same confines. Every basic human right was trampled and if we were reading this as happening in Zimbabwe or Tibet we as human beings of a supposedly moral and legally fair society would be horrified. But to have this happen to Garth Daniels and no one in the hospital system, the Victorian government or the media do anything about this abomination; one has to wonder who is compassionate and who are cowards.
Garth Daniels was released into the care of the Alfred Hospital who, at one stage actually cared and nursed him back to health. The moment he was taken into care at the Maroondah Hospital instead of being treated as a human being he was again thrown into solitary confinement, treated worse than an abused dog and afforded absolutely no rights. This is a spiral bouncing him between the Alfred to nurse him back to health and to the Maroondah to again destroy his fragile sanity and health again.
There can be no excuse for this as it violates every tenet of human rights. It is immoral, it is deliberate and Garth Daniels will die if this inhumanity is allowed to continue for much longer. Someone on the Victorian government needs to be held responsible for what the myriad of doctors, many of whom are South African immigrants still practicing apartheid health treatments upon an innocent man. The Supreme Court made a ruling to bring about better care for Garth Daniels. This decision handed down to the Maroondah and Alfred Hospitals has been ignored by those doctors at Maroondah charged with Garth’s well being. Changing the “Treatment Plan” to a “Management Plan” had effectively derailed that 10 June Supreme Court ruling of Justice Judd. The Mental Health Review Board approved the Alfred Hospital Treatment Plan but could not rule on the Maroondah Hospital Treatment Plan as it had been retitled Management Plan, which was outside the jurisdiction of the Board.
Not surprising Garth Daniels was again transferred from Maroondah Hospital after spending three gruelling weeks in solitary confinement to the Alfred, where Garth is being nurtured back to health, and out of seclusion only to be prepared to be transferred back to Maroondah Hospital.(sic)
One day soon there may be a very small obituary in this paper stating that Garth Daniels, loved son of Bernard and Marilyn, loving brother of Andre has passed away.
What it will not say is that he has been tortured to death under the very eye of those we turn to in moments of need.
The Alfred Hospital at this time of writing have Garth Daniels locked in seclusion.
The Victoria Government touts a human rights charter that has completely and utterly deserted Garth Daniels and his family at the moment they needed it. Leaving South Africa filled Bernard and his family with hope but Garth Daniels is on the verge of being killed by the Mental Health system of Victoria.