Jake’s Amendment



PadraigMacLochlainnIn Dublin, a proposed amendment to the Coroner’s Bill was presented today to the Dáil, the Irish Parliament, by Pádraig Mac Lochlainn TD (right), Sinn Féin’s Justice Spokesperson. The bill, to be known as ‘Jake’s Amendment’, would amend the Coroner’s Act of 1962 to allow for a coroner to return a verdict of iatrogenic (medically-induced) suicide.

Stephanie McGill Lynch drafted ‘Jake’s Amendment’ on behalf of her 14-year-old son Jake (top), who took his life in March 2013 after being prescribed Fluoxetine (Prozac).

StephanieMcGillLynchStephanie (left) said that she was hopeful that the amendment would be incorporated into the Bill. She said that while it was “too late to save my son,” the proposed change was “symbolic.”

At present, coroners in Ireland have the option to return an ‘open’ verdict in cases where people take their lives when under the influence of drugs or alcohol, especially if there is a question of a person’s intent to take their life.

However, Stephanie said that an open verdict did not go far enough, citing the example of Jake. She said: “This will give coroners an option other than an open verdict. Many people take their own lives when under the influence of legal drugs, not just illegal ones.”

Jake, who suffered from a mild form of Asperger’s Syndrome, took his life at the family home in Clondalkin using a legally-owned .22 rifle. Two months before his death, Jake had been referred to a psychiatrist, after concerns about his anxiety over forthcoming school exams . He was prescribed Fluoxetine.

Stephanie said that neither she or her husband was informed of the side-effects of Fluoxetine, which include an increase in suicidal ideation. “My child is dead,” she said. “He was given a drug that could make his symptoms worse and it did.”

Speaking in the Dáil today, Deputy Mac Lochlainn said:

On the 20th March 2013, 14 year old Jake McGill Lynch, shortly after being prescribed the antidepressant Prozac, ended his own life using a firearm. Jake, who was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, was given the antidepressant drug, despite research stating that the drug has no benefit for children with Asperger’s and despite the emerging evidence of harm.

“In the midst of their grief, Jake’s parents have come to understand that their personal tragedy is one that has been shared by thousands of families whose loved ones have died as a result of antidepressant-induced suicide.

“I welcome Jake’s parents, John and Stephanie, to the public gallery today. They have worked tirelessly to bring attention to this issue and to campaign for a change to the law.

“Their request is simple. They want the Coroner’s Act to be amended so that a Coroner can return a verdict of iatrogenic, medically induced suicide where such is the case.

“It is an issue that must be highlighted. A verdict of Suicide, returned in accordance with the provisions of the Act of 1962, must be differentiated from a verdict of Iatrogenic Suicide. Iatrogenic Suicide is the ending of one’s own life where the effect of medical treatment undertaken by the deceased, including any prescribed medication, is the primary cause of such an action.

It is obvious that the Coroners Act of 1962 is no longer fit for purpose and should be repealed and replaced with an amended version of the Coroners Bill 2007 as a matter of priority. In the amended version of the 2007 Bill, there should be a comprehensive list of verdicts open for a coroner or a jury as the case may be, to return. This list should, when it is finally amended, contain provision for a verdict of “Iatrogenic Suicide” to be made.”

“I hope that the Government will support this Bill.”

The Bill was passed unopposed, and will now proceed to a second stage.


Update (October 2017)

On Wednesday October 18th, the second reading of the bill took place in the Seanad (Senate) in Dublin. Stephanie and John were in the public gallery, along with Leonie Fennell, who wrote a detail account of the proceedings. I was able to follow the proceedings as they were televised. They can be still be viewed here (after 28 min) and here.

As at the first reading, the bill was introduced by Pádraig Mac Lochlainn, After this, short speeches in favour of the bill were given by fellow Sinn Féin members Máire Devine (who also works as a psychiatric nurse), Trevor Ó Clochartaigh, and Rose Conway-Walsh. They were also supported by independent senators David Norris and Frances Black (right).

Speaking against the motion were Dr James Reilly and Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan from Fine Gael. Their main argument seemed to be that a verdict of Iatrogenic Suicide might lead to the possibility that the prescribing physician be might be held to account.

During his speech, Dr Reilly (left) had an extraordinary rant at Senator Norris for having stated that Prozac was contraindicated in patients with Asperger’s, saying that what he said was untrue, Senator Norris, in fact, had been perfectly correct, as NICE specifically states that SSRIs should not be used to treat autism in children or even in adults. It is difficult to believe that one of Ireland’s most prominent, as well as richest, GPs should be unaware of the guidelines which he is supposed to follow.

As with the first reading, it was expected that the bill would pass unopposed, so that it could be discussed fully in committee stages. However, after a last-minute change of plan, senators who had not been present for the debate appeared as if from nowhere to defeat the bill by 19 votes to 12.

Update (January 18 2018)

Yesterday, Stephanie and John had a meeting in the Dáil Éireann with Charles Flanagan (right), the Minister for Justice and Equality.

The minister did not dispute the fact that prescribed drugs can cause people to take their lives, but said that deaths like Jake’s are covered by a verdict of “medical misadventure”. This verdict is used very rarely in Ireland, and is usually related to complications arising from surgical procedures.

However, Mr Flanagan stated that to use the word “iatrogenic” in a coroner’s verdict would cause “huge civil ramifications”. By this, he may have meant that it would empower bereaved parents to seek redress from practitioners who prescribe drugs recklessly and inappropriately. Or perhaps he meant that the all-powerful pharmaceutical companies may seek redress from the state for daring to impugn the efficacy of their products.

Whatever his reasons were, the Minister for Justice and Equality ensured that Jake’s parents were denied both justice and equality.

Update (May 12 2018)

This week, the chances of Jake’s Amendment being enshrined in law were formally ruled out by the aforementioned Minister for Justice and Equality.

Mr Flanagan stated that the proposal was “well intentioned but cannot be supported. This is mainly because the verdict would apportion some liability on the medical practitioner who may have prescribed the treatment or medication for the deceased person. In addition, the Office of the Attorney General had advised that it would be legally unsound since such a new verdict would be capable of ascribing criminal liability to a person or persons who would be readily identifiable.”

Mr Flanagan’s reasons for his comments are completely spurious. After all, when an inquest on a homicide is concluded, a verdict of “unlawful killing” is given. The perpetrator is not named, even if known, and there is no differentiation made at the inquest between murder and manslaughter. That is left for a criminal trial to decide.

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn, the TD who originally introduced Jake’s Amendment, said that it was originally uncontentious among all parties in the Seanad but was blocked at the 11th hour. He added: “My suspicion is that senior medical professionals . . . spooked the Minister.”

Stephanie said that she and John were “absolutely disgusted, traumatised,” adding that the proposed amendment “would have said ‘without apportioning blame.'”  She added: “We are not looking for anyone’s head on a plate. But we are looking for some kind of accountability.”


Further reading:

Jake’s Amendment” by Bob Fiddaman

Prozac Took My Child” by Stephanie McGill Lynch (commentary by Bob Fiddaman)

Jake’s Amendment” by Leonie Fennell

In Memory of Jake McGill Lynch” (CCHR UK)

Jake’s Amendment Fails. And Yet…” by Leonie Fennell


Related Articles:

The Lost Children (2014, 2015, 2016 & 2017)

Why we shouldn’t give Prozac to children

Hope in Copenhagen

Jake, Aged 14 (Part One)

Jake, aged 14 (Part Two)

Jake, aged 14 (Part Three)

When is a Suicide not a Suicide?


5 Replies to “Jake’s Amendment”

    • Wonderful news, hope it goes through, it would so much clarify suicide caused by drugs, and not only make it easier for coroner, and families, but hopefully may also flow through into the realm of the courts, ie medication induced homicides.
      Let’s hope so, and then perhaps, I could try and lobby to have the same thing here in Australia. I am sharing this information on all the support groups I am on.

  1. First and foremost, I want to send my condolences to these families who have lost their children. I have a 13 year old son and I can not even fathom. It hurts my heart to hear of such tragedy.
    I’m not here to exactly advocate for anti-depressants. But just like everything, in this world not everything is perfect. I myself went on Effexor when I was 20 following severe post-partum depression, anxiety and panic attacks. Effexor put me back on the map of the living. It took me out of the darkness completely. I then resumed my life with going back to work while enjoying every moment raising my son.
    Yes, I agree, anti-depressants have their downfalls. Effexor stopped working in 2011 or so … when my plate was filled with stressful events. I was successfully in remission on 150 mg of Effexor for 11 years. In 2011 I started getting extreme panic attacks, anxiety crept in and depression started because of my now debilatating life with panic once again. I have since been searching for a new combo of meds or a med that will again allieviate my anxiety and depression.
    I don’t disagree for one second that some anti-depressants don’t agree with everyone and can have adverse reactions. I was put on Cymbalta in 2013 and began 2 days into the med to obsessively think of suicide. But I was very aware it was the pill, so I went to the ER, told them what was happening and they told me to come off of it. When I stopped the med, the thoughts stopped. I have been on others that have made me agitated and angry but again being aware and having close family to tell me they see these signs.
    I also stopped that med and quickly resumed to myself, still with debilatating panic anxiety and depression. But having family or friends watch for changes can be very helpful. Seeing as Effexor was so successful for me I have hope of finding another match. Otherwise what do you do? Live with depressive thoughts? Anxious thoughts? And have my independence robbed from panic attacks for the rest of my life? That’s not a life. Anti-depressants affect everyone in very different ways. And every anti-depressant won’t agree with everyone. When anti-depressants don’t work, people can sink into deeper depression because the feeling of lost hope.
    I know anti-depressants can cause suicidal thoughts. Like I said, I’ve been there. But being aware and asking family and friends to help monitor your behaviour is key. Withdrawal is also a topic proven to be true. I again have experienced the sheer shittiness and anguish of coming down or off anti-depressants. It’s hell. And I will say in 2001 I was never told about that after being put on Effexor. It was never mentioned. But I had so many benefits from the med I don’t think I would have cared at the time. Discontinuation syndrome can be hell, but so is depression, anxiety and panic disorder. So I’m not sure how to even compare which is worse.
    I do agree the young should not be put on anti-depressants and if they are, being monitored very very closely is necessary. Anti-depressants alter chemicals in your brain, it’s a very big deal. But again, the debate could be will the depression take the the lives of these beautiful young souls before they reach an age where anti-depressants could be a potential method of help?
    All in all, mental health awareness needs to be flooding the gates of this world and in schools etc. People don’t know enough about mental health, anti-depressants and anti-psychotics, etc.
    That’s my opinion: someone needs to open the gates and fill the world with this harsh reality. Mental health doesn’t discriminate. I don’t think people understand this concept.

  2. Crystal, I appreciate that you think the drugs are helping you. But in this case this boy was not depressed, and should not have been prescribed this drug by his doctor, whether depressed or not, at his age. I feel this thread is not a place for you to say how wonderful you have found Effexor et al to be. I was on Effexor for 8 years, I lost my marriage, my life, my finances, my employability, and nearly my physical health and sanity – and coming off the stuff, yes, nearly lost my life. On ADs previously, I felt the urgent need to drown my own baby – luckily I didn’t.
    I now realise I never was depressed, never had any mental illness, never was a homicidal person, and for me, no antidepressants are any good. All my problems were caused by the medication.
    I am glad you are presently feeling well. However, I feel there are many other threads where you can tell your story, this one is not the appropriate thread.

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