This week, Sydney woman Vanessa Bortolin delivered a letter to her local member and Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese. She shared her husband’s tragic story, and requested assistance in allowing access to psychedelic assisted therapy, for those who need it most.
Ms Bortolin explained in her letter that she lost her husband to suicide after he fought a three-year battle with treatment-resistant depression, leaving behind her and their beloved daughter Zara.
After exhausting every option the Australian medical system had to offer, including 19 anti-depressant and anti-psychotic drugs and 96 ECT treatments, Ms Bortolin was hopeful when she read about the successful results of psychedelic-assisted therapy in overseas trials.
Unfortunately, with the current regulations in Australia there was no legal access pathway, and her husband took his own life before he was able to access this treatment.
In her letter, Ms Bortolin highlights the cruelty of disallowing treatment-resistant patients to receive access to these potentially life-saving treatments, when nothing else is working and the risk of suicide is great.
She has asked Mr Albanese to meet with her, to discuss the current scheduling of these substances and to find a way to allow treatment-resistant patients to access treatment.
TGA still creating road blocks
Vanessa Bortolin’s letter was written in response to the recent Interim Decision from the TGA not to support the limited rescheduling of psilocybin and MDMA.
Rescheduling, if successful, would allow patients with treatment-resistant depression the opportunity to access psychedelic-assisted therapy in a medical environment under the strict controls outlined in the rescheduling applications.
The charity Mind Medicine Australia says this would bring Australia in line with other leading nations such as the United States, Canada, Switzerland and Israel in allowing access to these treatments via compassionate and expanded access schemes.
The TGA’s final decision will be announced in December. A public submission period is currently open until November 24, during which members of the public can respond to and oppose the Interim Decision not to support rescheduling.
Mind Medicine Australia Board Director and Head of The Ethics Centre Dr Simon Longstaff said, ‘It is unethical to withhold these medicines from Australians who are suffering with treatment-resistant conditions in medically controlled environments.’
As Ms Bortolin wrote in her letter, ‘Prime Minister, you can help put a stop to the immense suffering in this nation. Please reschedule these substances for therapeutic use.
‘Please don’t let another child lose a parent to suicide.’
If this story has brought up any issues for readers, Lifeline is on 13 11 14 (24/7) or you can contact lifeline.org.au.