John David Wood

        by Julie Wood


My son died by suicide in 2008, but really he was killed by two  physicians. As I learned to my horror, physicians killing young people  in the way my son was killed is fairly common, and the CPSO sees nothing wrong with it.


John David’s Story

John David (JD, or John to his friends) was sweet, idealistic, funny and smart. 

As a preschooler, he had a nanny from Grenada.    She had a distinctive accent that he mastered so well he could sometimes fool people on the phone, which he loved to do.   As he got older he became a gifted impersonator.

 JD loved magic.  When he was three he went to a birthday party where there was a clown who did magic tricks.    From that day he was fascinated with magic and his favourite treat for years was to go to the magic store with his Dad and get apparatus for a new illusion.  

JD was incapable of pettiness or jealousy.    From the day his brother was born, JD loved him unreservedly and always defended him. 

The love of JD’s life was theatre.   Whenever he got the chance, he took courses at Young People’s Theatre.  When he was 9, he came home and said he was going to audition for the role of the young Duke of York at Canadian Stage production of Richard 03.    Amazingly, although he had no experience, he auditioned and got the role.  Stage fright was a foreign concept to this kid.  He was totally happy and comfortable in front of 600 people.  

As he grew he became a gifted actor and director in high school and university.

John David loved life.  He was extremely sensitive; as a young adult he was a high-strung, anxious perfectionist.    When he was 16 he went to see Dr Ian Graham, a psychiatrist who told JD that he had ADHD and gave him stimulants for his alleged condition.   JD took high doses of these drugs non-stop between mid-2000 and June, 2004.   He had no medical need for Ritalin, Adderall or Dexedrine, the stimulants that Dr Graham prescribed for him.    Dr Graham never warned JD about the side effects or told him that the drugs are not suitable for long-term use.   He also did not warn JD that these drugs are highly addictive, or that they negatively affect brain development.

In late summer 2004, JD was preparing to enter his 4th year at University of Toronto, Trinity College,  he  was working toward directing Othello at Hart House for the fall season.  He decided to quit taking stimulants and told Dr Graham that this was his plan.   Dr Graham did now warn him to wean himself off gradually to avoid serious withdrawal effects.    

On Sept 8, JD quit the drug “cold turkey” and soon started to have serious problems.  On Sept 17, he had a psychotic break and attempted suicide by slashing his throat.   He was taken to North York General Hospital (NYG) by the police on an involuntary admission.    His father and I rushed to the hospital when we found out but we were not permitted to see or talk to him.

NYG totally failed to discover that JD’s psychotic episode was a drug withdrawal reaction.   This was at least partly because when they called Dr Graham, at my request, Dr Graham lied and said he had not seen JD for months.    They recommended an antipsychotic drug, Risperdal.    At the time I did not realize that this class of drug is extremely damaging, and actually causes the problems that people attribute to “schizoaffective disorders” when taken long term.

He then went to a different psychiatrist because it was assumed that he had some serious psychiatric problem.   So, instead of getting off drugs, which was what he needed, he was loaded up with tons of damaging medications (Risperdal, Ativan, Celexa and Imovane).    These drugs created terrible problems for him – he gained 70 lbs., lost most of his cognitive functioning, was seriously suicidal, unmotivated and he developed a craving for alcohol.   His new psychiatrist, Dr David Dorenbaum, was totally oblivious to the obvious fact that all these problems and others were directly related to drugs.   

Many psychiatrists attribute all patient problems to inherent conditions and then prescribe drugs to people who are suffering from drug side effects.    This is what Dr Dorenbaum did to John David.

Dr Graham kept on prescribing the stimulants to him, although he should have known that they were the cause of JD’s problems.    In the fall of 2005, I confronted Dr Graham and argued with him about this, and threatened him that if he did not stop prescribing the drugs or at least get a second opinion, I would complain to the College of Physicians and Surgeons (CPSO).   I did not realize back then that the CPSO protects incompetent psychiatrists and will go to great lengths to blame their many victims for the problems these physicians cause, usually with drugs that do far more harm than good.

JD managed to get off the drugs for over a year and improved dramatically.   Sadly, like many addicts, he went back to his stimulants in 2008, prescribed by Dr Dorenbaum, which immediately started a downward spiral of drinking.   In the fall he entered a CAMH drug rehab program and did well, but by this time so much emotional and physical damage had been done that he was very fragile emotionally.   He killed himself shortly after leaving rehab, just when we had begun to believe the worst was over.

I complained to the CPSO about both Dr. Graham and Dr. Dorenbaum.   Shortly after I filed my complaint, I learned that a pharmacist had complained about Dr Graham and that the College had taken away his right to prescribe in 2007.   However, despite the fact that he had lost his right to prescribe for grossly mis-prescribing to 15 people, the panel of psychiatrists on the Inquiries, Complaint and Reports Committee (ICRC)  - Lynne Thurling, MD,  Rayudu Koka, MD, Dody Bienenstock, MD and Mr. David Mackinnon -  decided to aggressively defend Dr Graham by asserting that while he had made mistakes with John David, these mistakes did not make any difference.  

They did this by allowing Dr Graham to retroactively invent information to add to the diagnoses he actually made at the time, and by helpfully reading in all kinds of invented nonsense to assist his case.  

They decided that the case was not about Dr Graham CAUSING psychosis, but merely “unmasking” psychosis which had probably been there all along even though there was no evidence of this.  Dr Graham never mentioned anything about it, and JD was a happy and successful student during the time that the ICRC decided to retroactively claim he must have been mentally ill.   There is no overlap between objective fact-based truth, and the version of reality promulgated by the ICRC psychiatrists.

In the file, highlighted by me, was a clear statement by Dr Joel Jeffries (who had done the CPSO investigation of Dr Graham) that there was no evidence that JD had schizophrenia.  The ICRC decided to ignore this and rely on their own made-up information instead.  Not one of them had ever met my son.

 JD did never had ADHD, and the specialist who assessed him directly in Grade 10 for learning style asserted in writing that he did not have it.   Dr Graham had failed to follow the CPSO-agreed protocol for  diagnosing ADHD, which required him to contact Dr Allan.   Nevertheless, the ICRC chose to ignore this and assume that Dr Graham did the right thing. 

Instead of disciplining Dr Graham for prescribing drugs that were not needed, for failing to warn my son about the addictive properties of prescription speed and the dangers of sudden withdrawal, and for causing an addiction that directly led to his death, the ICRC asked Dr Graham to write a little essay about treating people with ADHD and schizophrenia, thus adding insult to injury.   This was their way of giving me the proverbial raised middle finger for daring to criticize one of them.   

In similar fashion, although Dr Dorenbaum had drugged my son almost to death, the ICRC blithely dismissed my claim that he caused brain damage by saying they did not believe it.   They allowed Dr Dorenbaum to re-create his illegible notes after I complained, and although this is misconduct under O Reg. 114/94 General under the Medicine Act, the CPSO never bothers to enforce the requirement that proper records be kept.   

The ICRC decided that it was just fine for Dr Dorenbaum to have taken a young man who started out traumatized by his psychotic reaction to speed withdrawal, but who was otherwise fine, and drug him almost to death while family frequently and frantically complained.   To them, destroying young people with drugs is what they do, and the CPSO has allowed them to defend their territory at the expense of families and the public interest.  

My son died as a result of the drugs  - none of which he needed – given to him by these two doctors but the ICRC just pretended that was not the case.   They can do this because the CPSO allows it.

These outrageous people must be stopped.  The public at large expects a professional regulatory body to ensure that practitioners operate according to standards that most people would find reasonable.   That is not happening at the CPSO.   Ontario needs effective oversight of all physicians and that is obviously not happening.

by Julie Wood