Dad who killed son found not criminally responsible — (CBC News)

SSRI Ed note: Paxil gives man delusions, tragedy results.

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CBC News  

Posted: Sep 30, 2005 11:44 AM 

 “We will probably never understand the desperation that led David Carmichael to take the life of his beloved son, Ian,” Ontario Superior Court Justice Helen Rady told a packed London courtroom Friday. She found Carmichael not criminally responsible in his son’s death.

David Carmichael of Toronto killed his 11-year-old epileptic son Ian by drugging and suffocating him in a London, Ont., Holiday Inn on July 31, 2004.

Rady found Carmichael not criminally responsible because of a mental disorder.

She was expected to decide later Friday what will happen to Carmichael now. Both Crown and defence lawyers have recommended he should be sent to a mental health institution.

During the emotional three-day trial, forensic psychiatrists testified that when he killed his son, Carmichael was suffering from severe depression and psychosis.

They said he believed Ian was partially brain-dead, and worried that the boy’s aggression could lead him to kill his older sister. They said he believed that killing Ian would spare him a life of intolerable suffering.

“There can be no doubt that Mr. Carmichael’s beliefs were illogical, indefensible, and contrary to reality,” Rady said.

During the trial, Rady heard testimony from a former colleague of Carmichael’s and from his twin brother Jeff, both of whom described the transformation of “a loving father” into a depressed, suicidal stranger.

His family, Jeff Carmichael testified, has a history of depression and suicide.


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Four years ago David Carmichael killed his son. Now free, he is crusading against ‘happy drugs,’ saying they — not him — are to blame

The Toronto Sun

May 25, 2008


He popped his antidepressants like candy and believes Paxil made him kill his son.

And now David Carmichael is worried drug companies will soon have the go-ahead to push their potentially dangerous “happy pills” on more unsuspecting Canadians, with similarly dire results.

With new Bill C-51, the Conservative initiative to overhaul Canada’s food and drug act, critics like Carmichael worry it will open the door to big pharma circumventing the current ban on direct-to-consumer advertising.

“It will make it easier for big chemical drug pharmaceutical companies to mislead the public about the effectiveness and lethal side-effects of SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors),” he insists. “I am now more afraid of the excruciating pain that many more Canadian families will experience if Bill C-51 is passed than of the consequences of speaking out against Paxil and SSRIs.”

This summer will mark four years since Carmichael murdered his 11-year-old boy. In a psychotic delusion, he drove Ian to a motel in London, Ont. and after a night of playing video games, the former director of ParticipAction placed his hands around his son’s throat.


At his trial, psychiatrists testified the loving father had been suffering from untreated depression and had become convinced that instead of suffering from a mild form of epilepsy, Ian really had severe brain damage that was endangering his family and making his life a living hell.

No blame was placed then on the antidepressants he had begun taking and Carmichael was found not criminally responsible due to a mental disorder in 2005.

Just over a year later, the Ontario Review Board determined he no longer posed a danger to himself or others and he was discharged from the Brockville Psychiatric Hospital as an outpatient. His wife and daughter moved from Toronto to live with him in Brockville where he sees a counsellor every two weeks.

“We’re working hard to build a shattered life,” he explains over the long distance line. “It’s moving in the right direction.”

Finding work, though, remains a challenge. “The stigma around mental illness is huge in itself. The stigma around killing your own child is amazing.”

For his sake, though, you wonder why he doesn’t try to rebuild by fading into the shadows.

Instead, Carmichael seems compelled to go public yet again on a new crusade.

Initially, it was to fight the stigma around mental illness.

Today it is insisting that it was Paxil, and not his mental disorder, that triggered his psychotic episode.

He says tests right after the murder, but never introduced at his trial, revealed that he was not suffering from a major depression.

“If depression didn’t trigger the psychosis, what was it? That’s where it suggests it was the drug.”

At the time of the murder, Carmichael was overwhelmed by his second bout of severe depression. Without consulting his doctor, he began taking Paxil, the antidepressant he had left over from his first struggle with the illness the year before. When he became tormented by suicidal thoughts, he decided — on his own — to increase his dosage by 50%.

“I took my medication like it was Aspirin — the more the better. What a mistake that was and there are still people who do that.

“We have to do a better job of educating the public about the potentially lethal side- effects these drugs have.”

Yet Canadians are popping them like never before. The number of prescriptions for SSRIs has more than doubled in the past five years, with 17.5 million prescriptions filled in 2005.

To his credit, Carmichael admits that millions have been helped by these drugs. But there is also growing evidence that for a rare few, especially in the first weeks of treatment, antidepressants may have triggered acts of violence.


In fact, just a few months before Ian’s murder, Health Canada issued a strong warning that SSRIs may put patients at increased risk of self-harm and harm to others.

Several calls to GlaxoSmithKline, makers of Paxil, were not returned.

As he campaigns to raise awareness of the drugs’ potential side effects, Carmichael has also been in contact with the family of Carleton University student Nadia Kajouji, who committed suicide a few weeks after being prescribed an SSRI.

“My heart breaks for them,” he says. “Between Nadia’s case and Bill C-51, I felt I had to speak out. People need to start questioning.”

And while you want to applaud his courage and altruism, you wonder if this poor man is also in desperate need of a crusade — anything to ease the pain of dealing with the horror of what he has done.

Blaming a drug must be so much easier than blaming yourself.

“Bill C-51 has to be killed,” he insists, “to prevent many more innocent children like my son Ian from being killed.”