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The legal details regarding Terry Martin’s trial have been headlining news in Tasmania for several days.

There has been little detail relating to the relevant medical issues. Whilst this is, of course, quite appropriate, members of the general public, and particularly those with Parkinson’s Disease (PD), and their friends and relatives, need a deeper appreciation of the other factors involved.

PD is a complex disease, more than just a tremor, it can affect thinking, decision making and behaviour. This complexity is compounded by the medications and other treatments which are used.

Modern drug treatments have provided very much benefit to those living with PD but, in Terry Martin’s case, and in many others, there are side-effects which are potentially life changing and which need to be detected early so that appropriate action can be taken. Informed consent is a crucial issue with respect to the initial prescribing of these drugs. Enhanced health professional and general public awareness of this issue is likely to be helpful.

The so-called impulse control disorders are a notorious and well described side-effect of dopamine agonist drugs (such as sifrol and cabaser, both which Terry Martin took) which activate dopamine receptors in the brain and help reduce the mobility problems of those with PD. Included in the list of impulse control disorders are pathological gambling, compulsive shopping and hypersexuality with sex addiction.

There is currently a medical class action underway in Australia, one of the largest in Australian history, against the drug companies which produced these drugs. Over 100 victims of the dopamine agonist medications are arguing that they were inadequately warned that these medications can unleash the pleasure seeking parts of the brain with disastrous effects.

One patient, recovered from gambling addiction, wrote the following account of his experience; ‘The pain and suffering from this dreaded Parkinson’s Disease is sometimes unbearable but it does not begin to compare with the devastation this drug (a dopamine agonist) has had on my family, my character, my reputation, and my financial future’.

The Parkinsons Disease Association is a national organisation which provides support, information and advocacy for people with PD.

Tasmania has a small but active chapter. With State government funding Parkinson’s Tasmania has been able to secure the positions of 3 PD nurse specialists, 1 of each region, (North, North West and South of the State). Already the nurses have provided valuable help to people affected by PD, including the identification and management of unsuspected impulse control disorders.

Please call Parkinsons Tasmania if you need assistance or advice on 62292509.

Ed: Here is a report into the validity of such effects:
http://blog.ncrg.org/issues-insights/impulse-control-disorders-and-parkinson%E2%80%99s-disease-findings-dominion-study

Earlier on Tasmanian Times:
Terry Martin guilty: includes DPP slams critics of 12yo’s sex case