Two women have been sacked by a state funded Te Atutu based addiction treatment centre "Higher Ground" for taking their prescribed medication (citalopram) for depression.
Both of them presented to their GP with depression and were prescribed a standard, evidence-based treatment. Their employer, on learning of this from one of the women, suggested that they instead take St. Johns Wort - an unlicensed drug of unproven effectiveness. When they did not take this advice, they were fired.
The Employment Relations Authority has rejected one of the womens claims on the grounds that she did not follow correct process in challenging the authority (the other has complained directly to the Human Rights Commission).
I think this is unacceptable on several grounds:
- Psychiatric illness is a disability and a prohibited ground of discrimination under the Human Rights Act. It should be as unacceptable to sack someone on these grounds as to sack them for being black. And I don't believe the ERA would accept a race-based dismissal on grounds of incorrect process.
- Organisations which systematically breach the HRA should not be funded or endorsed by the state.
- The public health system is based around evidence-based medicine - encouraging people to uptake appropriate treatment is part of this. The system should not be funding organisations that actively work against the uptake of such treatment.