Dr David Gaskell CHE writes a letter in response to Vanessa · Mind Medicine Australia
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Dr David Gaskell CHE writes a letter in response to Vanessa

16 November 2022

Dear Tania and MMA team

Thank you for your email.

Vanessa’s is a heart-wrenching story of personal suffering and profound loss. Such a brave, articulate letter to her MP, the Prime Minister.

Please pass on my sincerest condolences to this grieving family regarding the death of Franco. My wife and I hold them all in our prayers.

Please thank Vanessa for this act of courage. Give her some solace that I and thousands of other healthcare professionals stand with her in this cause. On moral, pharmacological and clinical grounds (amongst others), TGA Executive must stop its blockade to using medicinal Psilocybin in treating patients like Franco. That in NSW euthanasia is legal whilst Psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy is not is immoral, cruel and strangely ironic.

I have been a doctor for 33 years. I work in remote rural communities across NSW and WA, delivering family and emergency medical care. Many of my patients are poor and carry a heavy burden of health needs, some of which go unmet. My experience is that psychiatrist-led mental health services are patchy and limited in their outreach and effectiveness. Soul and social needs go unaddressed so poor mental health remains. Community mental teams everywhere are over-stretched. Gaps in service are widening – I’m sure someone has the stats; drug treatments – horror: look at Franco’s list! – are often crude leading to discordance with therapy; and so all this ‘mental health need’ leads to epidemic proportions of hopelessness and despair.

No-one in our nation has made a bolder or more personal case than Vanessa, that the status quo regarding mental suffering is morally reprehensible. The burden is immense yet it mostly is borne in silence until there is a suicide. Timely access to psychiatrist-led care is very limited, worse for country populations. Current therapies are of slow onset; adverse side-effects are commonplace; and they are frequently of limited (if any) therapeutic benefit. So, Australia’s case for a therapeutics paradigm shift is strong whilst its case to change the legal status of prescribing psychedelic medicines in the treatment of refractory mental illness is moral and urgent.

In this context, any government agent blocking the legalisation of access to professionally-led, psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy for patients suffering from refractory mental illness must be held accountable to people like Vanessa. I hope PM Anthony Albanese listens to her story and takes action now.

Dr David Gaskell CHE


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