By Beth David, Editor
Michelle Carter, the Plainville woman charged with Involuntary Manslaughter in the suicide death of Conrad Roy III, is due back in court on Friday, 4/7, for another Daubert Hearing. On 3/21, the court heard from psychiatrist Peter Breggin, 80, who testified about the effects of psychiatric drugs on the adolescent brain. Both Ms. Carter and Mr. Roy were taking Celexa at the time of his death.
The defense had also hoped to have the court hear from psychologist Frank Dicataldo, to testify about brain development.
Judge Lawrence Moniz told the defense he had a problem with allowing that testimony. He said he did not see how it would be relevant to the Carter case because Dr. Dicataldo did not interview Ms. Carter.
The judge said he did not want generalized testimony, he wanted specifics. He told the two sides to submit briefs by 3/28 and he would decide if Dr. Dicataldo would testify on 4/7. As of press time, the Friday hearing was still on schedule.
After the hearing the judge will then rule to allow or not to allow the two experts to testify at Ms. Carter’s trial in June.
Dr. Breggin, a psychiatrist who is internationally known as a skeptic of psychiatric drugs, was alternately portrayed as a brilliant scientist on the cutting edge of the science of brain development and psychiatric drugs, by the defense; and a quack who formed his opinion before meeting the defendant and who peer reviews his own published articles, by the prosecution.
Dr. Breggin explained how SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) work on the brain. He said the adolescent brain is still not fully developed and, in effect, goes haywire when the drugs are introduced into the system, calling it “neurotoxicity.” He said that in his opinion, Ms. Carter was “involuntarily intoxicated.”
He reviewed his background, his education credentials, the books he’s written and the many articles he has had published over decades of psychiatric practice.
In an amiable and conservational tone, Dr. Breggin explained his philosophy of avoiding drug therapy for his patients.
He said that SSRIs can cause a change in the behavior of adolescents and that Celexa is not approved for use in minors.
Dr. Breggin told the court he had interviewed many people who knew Ms. Carter from years before.
His opinion was that she was a happy child from birth and that the drugs changed who she was.
At the same time, he said her encouragement to Mr. Roy to kill himself was in keeping with her core personality, that she was helping him get to heaven.
“So she gets this grandiose, this irrational change,” he said, from the girl who helps everyone, to helping him go to heaven.
“You can see the continuity of her wanting help people,” he said, but it gets “twisted.”
“It’s both grandiose and out of touch with what the boy’s suicide would mean,” said Dr. Breggin.
He said that convoluted thinking was clearly a symptom of the prescribed drug.
When prosecutor Katie Rayburn got her turn at the podium, she first went after Dr. Breggin’s credentials.
She noted that seven of the 10 articles he submitted as examples of his peer-reviewed work were published in magazines that he either founded or was listed as being on the editorial board.
Dr. Breggin said it did not matter, because the articles were peer reviewed and blind, no one knew he was the author.
He called it a “source of pride” that the journals wanted him on their editorial board.
Ms. Rayburn also hammered home the fact that Dr. Breggin did not interview Ms. Carter, her parents, or her friends. He only spoke to people who had know her a long time ago.
Dr. Breggin responded that the parents would be too biased and that he wanted to talk to people who knew her when she was younger. He noted that Ms. Carter had been on a variety of SSRIs since she was 14 for, among other things, an eating disorder.
He said he had plenty of information by reading the texts and emails, that he could easily see the sharp change in her personality that began just a few weeks before Mr. Roy’s death.
But Ms. Rayburn insisted that he could not know that without speaking to her friends and classmates, and that he should have looked at other texts and behavior from the same time period. She specifically referred to excessive texting by Ms. Carter to two girls that required police involvement to get her to stop.
Ms. Rayburn also got Mr. Breggin to admit that he does not believe that psychiatric drugs should ever be used, and does not believe in forced hospitalizations under any circumstances.
“They end up being humiliated,” he said, and resistant to treatment.
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