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Croydon, UK, November 2000

Audience Comment (1)

My husband has been on benzodiazepines for 18 years now. He started on lorazepam and he certainly was not the first person not to know it had any effects at all. I didn't even know what tablets he was on.

For 13 years he became increasingly violent, uncaring, no interest and ignoring his friends. Eventually I was fearing for my life, so it was me, it was the family, probably it's happened to a lot of people here as well.

After 12 years I said "there's a problem" - the doctor didn't say there was a problem, the patient didn't say there was a problem. It's often the relatives who are the closest and they, the people who accept all this strange behaviour blame themselves. They blame what the patient says and they are the first people, I think, to discover there is a problem.

There is such a time lapse from the time that people take these pills until the time that the problem is discovered.

My husband is here today. He is upstairs in his hotel room - he cannot come down as he's in such a state. He said to me, "Tell them that I'm withdrawing now; I'm on 5 tablets a week, but I feel I'm in danger of killing somebody".

In a normal everyday situation [such as] driving a car, nobody stops him driving a car, he's a big man and very forceful - he could easily injure someone. If somebody upsets him in any way, just a normal member of the public, or if someone 'cuts him upí when he's driving, if someone does something that he interprets as an expression of anger or aggression he will react.

He says someone should listen to him. He says: "I'm going to kill someone in the end and it's the only time anyone will listen to me." I'm sure that this is such a problem - somebody here mentioned crime. We should be investigating some of the causes. I hope that rings a bell somewhere...

Audience Comment (2)

"I don't think the doctors do understand what informed consent is if something like the Bristol children's heart scandal is anything to go by. Her parents gave what they thought was their informed consent only to find out that actually, parts of their children had been disposed of in quite a disgusting way. I think we've got to rethink the whole idea of informed consent.

I want to say that during this whole conference I have had a sense of a slight swing towards the patients being expected to take responsibility for what they were being prescribed. We were talking about having the patient information leaflets put into the packs of drugs. Now I think that's fine; that's an aide-memoire for the patients. We can all have a look at it and see what's going on but I think that the first level of responsibility is with the doctors. They are the people who have the power to prescribe. They should take responsibility for that prescription. I just don't think it's good enough.

We heard the last speaker this morning and there was a sense of the GP somehow being coerced by the patients to give them something. Now this is absolute nonsense. There is a very little word - "no". Now if the doctors can't use that word, they should be trained to use it. You cannot have a GP turn round and say: "Well I'm sorry. Mrs So & So put pressure on me" - that is absolute, if you'll pardon the phrase, bullshit." Thank you.

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