Schizophrenic killer was taking mental health vitamins, court hears
Jon Woodward, CTV British Columbia
Published Wednesday, July 4, 2012 7:12PM PDT
A man who killed his father and severely beat his mother during a psychotic episode in November had abandoned medical treatment for a mental health vitamin pill shortly before his death, a B.C. court has heard.
Jordan Ramsay, 27, is on trial to determine if he is criminally responsible for the second-degree murder of his father, Donald Ramsay, and the attempted murder of his mother, Wendy Ramsay.
B.C. Supreme Court heard Wednesday that Ramsay had a long history of getting off his medications before trying the EMPower Plus vitamins from Truehope, which are manufactured by an Alberta company and advertise a nutrition-based way to improve mental health.
“It’s awful. My family is just devastated by this,” LeeAnn Ramsay, Jordan Ramsay’s aunt, said outside the court.
“I’m sure these vitamins help some people who don’t have a severe disease but schizophrenia is not something that can be treated by vitamins,”
Police say the Ramsays were beaten with a hammer or a wrench. Shortly before the attack, Ramsay appeared not to recognize his mother, the court heard. When police arrived, Ramsay was combative and had to be subdued with a Taser.
Ramsay has admitted to his actions, but pleaded not criminally responsible.
The court heard evidence from psychiatrist Leanne Meldrum, who said that Ramsay stabilized with doses of Risperidone, but relapsed when he stopped taking the pills. She told the court that Ramsay’s parents believed the best path for him was to take fewer doses of medication.
“Ms. Ramsay had been trying to keep him on the lowest dose,” Ramsay’s lawyer, Dan Sudeyko, read from a psychiatric report Wednesday.
“Mr. Ramsay was trying to self-medicate with Truehope vitamins.”
When officials searched the Ramsay house after the murder, the court heard that they did not find any Risperidone -- only Truehope pills.
“No prescription meds had been found,” said LeeAnn Ramsay outside of court.
“He’d been off them, probably for a few weeks. And just on vitamins.”
Truehope is an Alberta company co-founded by Anthony Stephan, a man whose wife committed suicide after a struggle with bipolar disorder and whose children have faced more mental illness. A pig farmer, Stephan saw a similarity between his children’s mental health problems and a pig with ear-and-tail-biting syndrome.
The pig syndrome is treated with nutritional supplements, so Stephan and his colleague David L. Hardy created a human version. They say that the benefits of the substance are borne out in peer-reviewed studies.
“We’re not applying a medication, we’re applying proper nutrition,” Stephan says in a video on the vitamin company’s website.
The company has tangled with Health Canada over whether the pill is marketed as a treatment, which must meet a high bar for medical proof, or just as a supplement.
On its website, Truehope tells potential patients that, “Psychiatric medications should be gradually tapered off under the supervision of a doctor.”
Going off medication is very dangerous for patients, said Vancouver psychiatrist Dr. Phillip Long.
“This approach could kill you,” he told CTV News. “The worst case for patients who have stabilized is that if they go off their meds. Bipolar disease carries a 15-per-cent completed suicide rate.”
In an interview, Stephan denied that his company tells patients to use vitamins instead of drugs.
“I’m not saying that it’s a treatment for schizophrenia or bipolar disease. I’m saying that people have used it and found it effective,” he said.
“The mother was working with us,” he said.
According to Stephan, Wendy’s contact at Truehope wrote in the company’s database on Nov. 1: “Thankfully, the roaring lion was back in his cage today.”
He said that, “The next day, she was excited that the lion had turned into a lamb. Wanted to let us know how excited she was.”
LeeAnn Ramsay said she doesn’t fault Wendy for trying to get her son the best treatment.
“I know that parents want to do the best for their kid,” she said. “They want to try everything they can to cure it. But it didn’t work out in this case.”
Jordan Ramsay is currently a patient in Coquitlam’s Forensic Psychiatric Institute. Wendy Ramsay is out of hospital but is still recovering from her injuries.
The hearing is scheduled to continue Thursday.