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PERTH, Australia — An Australian man was mistaken for an escaped mental patient Dec. 16 and forced to take strong antipsychotic drugs, causing a stir among Australian doctors and government officials in Perth.
According to The West Australian, the actual patient, who had been committed involuntarily, walked out of Graylands Hospital Dec. 14. Police were notified and given a description of the escaped man.
Two days later, a different man "fitting the description" of the escapee was arrested by police and taken back to Greylands, where he was astonishingly mistaken for the missing patient, who had been in the facility for the last eight months.
Doctors then gave the misidentified man Clozapine, a strong antipsychotic typically given to schizophrenics only when other treatment options have failed. The drug caused an unspecified "adverse effect" and the man had to be treated in another local hospital overnight.
"I find it hard to imagine that if proper processes were followed, there is any excuse for such a terrible mistake to be made. - Mental Health Minister Helen Morton
Clozapine is known to cause agranulocytosis, CNS depression, leukopenia, neutropenia, seizure disorder, bone marrow suppression, dementia, hypotension, myocarditis, orthostatic hypotension and seizures. It has caused death in some patients.
The real escaped mental patient returned to Greylands on Dec. 16, when presumably the mistake was realized, though it is unclear exactly when staff noticed they had the wrong man.
Local medical organizations and politicians were shocked by the incident and questioned the hospital's identification process.
"I find it hard to imagine that if proper processes were followed, there is any excuse for such a terrible mistake to be made," said Mental Health Minister Helen Morton. The hospital does not use mandatory identity bracelets for its patients.
Police and local health services have launched inquiries.