An innocent man was dragged into a psychiatric hospital against his will and drugged in Australia on December 16, after he was captured because he resembled an escaped patient from the hospital.
One of humanity’s greatest fears is that of being wrongly accused, and the trope encompassing the ordeal to which the unnamed Australian man was subjected has been the premise of many films, books and other artistic works, so deeply rooted is our fear of mistaken identity.
The frightening mistake occurred earlier this month in Perth, and ABC in Australia explains that the error was only discovered when the man — who is apparently a mentally stable individual — had an adverse reaction to a strong psychiatric medication generally administered when other medications of that grade are ineffective.
The network explains that after the man was forcibly injected with the drug, his reaction to the medication exposed the error — but that police and psychiatric hospital staff did not verify the man’s identity before he was subjected to the injection of clozapine:
“Police arrested the man while on lookout for an involuntary patient who left Graylands Hospital without permission … The man was wrongly identified as the missing patient and then given an antipsychotic drug … He had a bad reaction and was taken to hospital, where the mistake was discovered.”
Western Australia’s Mental Health Minister Helen Morton admits that breach of standard procedure could have led to the dangerous error:
“The policies and procedures are stringent about identifying people when they are made involuntary and when they are about to receive a Schedule 4 drug, and it would appear those policies and procedures weren’t carried out.”
Solicitor Sandra Boulter tells ABC that such an error required failures in treatment on several levels:
“There are a series of people, there were the police, there were the admitting staff, there’s presumably the treating psychiatrist, and the Aboriginal Health Service, all of whom could possibly have identified the error … It is always the case when there is a mistake, as even an airline pilot will tell you, it is never one mistake, it is a series of errors that accumulate leading up to the big error … I think it is a critically important that an independent person such as an official visitor is appointed or contacted so there is independent oversight of any admission.”
The day the misidentified man was forcibly injected at the psychiatric hospital, the original escapee returned to the institution of his own volition.