Psychedelics, medicine and ethics has always been a tricky thing and we’re suprised (or maybe not) that those who have held themselves up to be the paragons of perfection in the field over the past few years, have in fact been either arrogant, dumb or lazy when it comes to managing ethics at their organisations.
Personally I think it is a combination of all 3 and hubris will always come back to bite you in the ass.
First it was MAPS
Now in Australia, national broadcaster the ABC has made public, a can of worms at local version of MAPS, Mind Medicine.
The psychedelic opera singer and banker was always great pitch to get the press interested when things were going swimmingly.
Unfortunately for the Australian psychedelic power couple, they will now discover to their chagrin that the same pitch that made for such good press will do the same for the less kosher aspects of their activity and unfortunately for the rest of us interested in a forward narrative for psychedelic medicine in Australia.
The ABC aired their weekly investigative 4 corners show last night with some very serious allegations.
Here’s the precis to the show
Reporter Elise Worthington also investigates the dark side of this form of therapy where disturbing cases of abuse and malpractice are emerging in both clinical trials and the underground.
“There’s everything from people being dosed without their consent, to people being encouraged to sleep with practitioners in exchange for services, to people being pressured to participate in group contexts, and so-called rituals that they otherwise wouldn’t have engaged in.” Underground researcher
There’s now pressure in the industry to downplay the negative stories by those who stand to profit from the business of psychedelics.
“There’s a sense of, well, don’t say anything bad about psychedelics because it’ll harm the movement and we’ll stop progressing . . And if that goes unchecked, then you could just have a situation where a lot of vulnerable people are being taken advantage of.” Whistle-blower
Psyched Up, reported by Elise Worthington, goes to air on Monday 25th July at 8.30pm. It is replayed on Tuesday 26th July at 11.00pm and Wednesday 27th July at 10am. It can also be seen on ABC NEWS channel on Saturday at 8.10pm AEST, ABC iview and at abc.net.au/4corners.
CLICK THE IMAGE TO WATCH THE SHOW
The ABC have also run the following news story on their website
The banker and the opera singer
At a health and wellness retreat on the Sunshine Coast, investment banker Peter Hunt and his wife, opera singer Tania de Jong, have been fasting for several days and are hoping to re-energise their mission.
Their psychedelic journey began on a trip to the Netherlands a few years earlier, where they ingested a large legal dose of psychedelic drugs known as “Psilohuascha” through a private therapist.
“It was wild,” Peter says.
“It was like nothing I’d experienced before.”
Peter Hunt and Tania de Jong. Four Corners: Nick Wiggins
Tania describes it as “one of the most profound experiences in our lives”.
It inspired them to found Australia’s only registered charity advocating for the use of psychedelic therapy to treat mental illness, Mind Medicine Australia (MMA).
In just three years, they’ve established a for-profit training institute, a telephone hotline, and are lobbying to get psychedelics legalised for therapeutic use in clinical settings.
“We see a lot of people out there who are suffering, and we’re determined to bring these therapies into the medical system so psychiatrists can use them with their patients,” Peter says.
But MMA is mired in controversy, with former staff alleging internal chaos, allegations of links to the underground, and claims it’s used threats and intimidation to silence critics.
The drug cook
MMA’s mission to get psychedelic therapy to the masses faces a major hurdle — getting the drugs rescheduled by Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA).
So far it’s failed to clear that hurdle.
Tania says, with both state and federal regulations involved, the process has been complicated.
“And often, you’re dealing with bureaucrats who are quite challenged by change,” she says.
“Because you know, this is a paradigm shift.”
The charity’s TGA application would have allowed both MDMA and psilocybin to be used in therapeutic settings.
The application was drafted with the help of key scientific adviser Victor Chiruta, who until recently was listed on the charity’s website under the heading “management team”.
“Victor’s got great scientific knowledge,” Peter says.
Victor Chiruta is also a convicted drug cook.
Court documents obtained by Four Corners reveal earlier this year he pleaded guilty to manufacturing 57 grams of the drug MDA — a similar drug to MDMA. He was arrested in 2014 after police allegedly discovered a commercial-scale illegal drug lab in the Blue Mountains.
“We are aware he’s got difficulties, and we’ve given character references,” Peter explains, noting Chiruta is also disabled after suffering burns to his body.
Tania tells Four Corners she’s unconcerned about Victor’s role at the charity.
“I’m not sure why you’re making such a big thing of it, actually,” she says.
“We’re trying to focus on getting suffering people well, so this seems to be a bit of a red herring.”
‘Experience the medicines’
Despite the use of psychedelic drugs in therapy being illegal in Australia — outside of strictly controlled trials — MMA has started running a training certificate for psychedelic therapists.
Tania says finding participants isn’t a problem.
“Being a psychedelic-assisted therapist is probably one of the most popular and, I guess, sexy professions around at the moment,” she says.
For $9,000, these hopeful psychedelic therapists can take a four-month, mostly online training course run by MMA’s for-profit Mind Medicine Institute (MMI).
They receive MMI’s Certificate of Psychedelic Assisted Therapy.
Melbourne psychotherapist Yury Shamis enrolled in the first intake, expecting an accredited course.
“[The] reality was, it was a good course, but it wasn’t accredited at all. So the certificate really didn’t mean anything,” he said.
PhD student Kayla Greenstein enrolled last year, when the course was plagued with delays due to COVID.
“It was certainly presented as that if this became legal in Australia … that Mind Medicine were the ones who would be certifying people.
“I recognise now that if I had spent more time on YouTube, I could have found a lot of the same information that I learned in that course, and I certainly didn’t gain anything practical out of it.
“[I] ultimately decided to leave and I got a partial refund.”
One of the issues raising eyebrows in the psychedelic community was a “major healthy persons trial” MMA announced it would be funding earlier this year, in which 200 participants would be able to “experience the medicines”.
An email sent by the charity stated it had secured the MDMA for the trial and that “this trial will give graduates and participants in our Certificate of Psychedelic- Assisted Therapies (CPAT) Program the chance to actually undergo Psychedelic Assisted therapy in a clinically controlled environment”.
Dr Emma Tumilty, a bioethicist from Deakin University, says that advertisement raised suspicions “that the research was in part being used as a vehicle to provide access to the drug so that MMA could offer training that included that experience”.
“That would, of course, be ethically and scientifically inappropriate.” she says.
The charity was eventually instructed to pull an advertisement for the study by the ethics committee that conditionally approved the trial. MMA says a “breach was innocently made”.
After inquiries from Four Corners, the ethics committee advised the trial was being withdrawn late last week.
Read the full story
Also see Tania De Jong speak on SBS TV Show. Insight
Also, it is instructive to take a look at their board where they have managed, through connections, to gather some big names including a former admiral and a trade minister in the last government.
I imagine board member Dr Simon Longstaff AO will be first off the block to consider his position as his bio indicates “Dr Simon Longstaff commenced his work as the first Executive Director of The Ethics Centre in 1991″
Will these revelations set back psychedelic medical research in Australia, let’s hope not but we would also say the days of the last government are over and cosy relationships that have existed for nigh on a decade are unravelling throughout Australia’s business and political world .
I would suggest that if De Jong & Hunt really believe in a future that involves psychedelic medicine becoming part of the wider healthcare eco-system the best way they could show that it is all about the medicine and not their egoes would be to resign their positions from the board of Mind Medicine.
Peter Hunt AM
As an investment banker Peter Hunt AM advised local and multi-national companies and governments in Australia for nearly 35 years. He co-founded and was Executive Chairman of one of Australia’s leading investment banking advisory firms, Caliburn Partnership (now called Greenhill Australia) and continued as Chairman of the Firm after its sale to Greenhill Inc in 2009. Peter was a member of the Advisory Panel of ASIC and chaired the Vincent Fairfax Family Office.
Peter is an active philanthropist involved in funding, developing and scaling social sector organisations which seek to create a better and fairer world. He is Chairman of Mind Medicine Australia which he established with his wife, Tania de Jong, in 2018. He founded Women’s Community Shelter in 2011 and remains on the Board. He was previously Chairman of So They Can, Grameen Australia and Grameen Australia Philippines. Peter is a Director of Project Rozana and an Advisory Board member of the Monash Sustainable Development Institute. Peter also acts as a pro bono adviser to Creativity Australia.
Peter was made a member of the General Division of the Order of Australia in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List in 2010 for services to the philanthropic sector.
Tania de Jong AM
LL.B (Hons), GradDipMus
Deputy Chair and Executive Director
Tania de Jong AM is a trail-blazing Australian soprano, award-winning social entrepreneur, creative innovation catalyst, spiritual journey woman, storyteller and global speaker. Tania is one of Australia’s most successful female entrepreneurs and innovators developing 6 businesses and 4 charities including Creative Universe, Creativity Australia and With One Voice, Creative Innovation Global, Mind Medicine Australia, Dimension5, Umbrella Foundation and Driftwood – The Musical, MTA Entertainment & Events, Pot-Pourri and The Song Room.
She works across the public, private, creative and community sectors. Tania speaks and sings around the world as a soloist and with her group Pot-Pourri releasing twelve albums. She was Founder and Executive Producer of the award-winning future-shaping events series, Creative Innovation Global. She was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia in June 2008 and named one of the 100 Women of Influence and the 100 Australian Most Influential Entrepreneurs and as one of the 100 most influential people in psychedelics globally in 2021.
Tania’s TED Talk How Singing Together Changes The Brain has sparked international interest. Tania’s mission is to change the world, one voice at a time!
Admiral Chris Barrie AC
Admiral Chris Barrie commanded all arms of the Defence Force as its Chief (CDF) from 1998 till 2002. After this, Chris worked on strategic leadership as a consultant, teacher and mentor, initially through Oxford University’s Strategic Leadership and Stimulus Forum Programs (2002-2011); and as Distinguished Visiting Professor he also taught an elective on Strategic Leadership to senior U.S. military officers at the National Defense University in Washington DC from 2004 till 2010.
He is busy now as the founder and Chair of Fearless- PTSD (Australia New Zealand), whose subsidiary ‘FearLess Outreach’ is intended to assist an estimated 6 million people in the Australian and New Zealand communities, who live with post-traumatic stress. He is an outspoken commentator on Climate Change and Security using community advocacy to raise awareness of the potential costs of inaction. Chris is also the Australian member of the Global Military Advisory Council on Climate Change (GMACCC), and an adjunct member of the Planetary Security Initiative based in the Hague.
Professor Jane Burns
BA (Hons), Ph.D
Professor Jane Burns is a health strategist, advising the government, university and social enterprise sector. She is Chair of Open Arms, Chair of STREAT and Chair of the Centre for Mental Health at Swinburne University. She has over twenty years’ experience as a C-Suite Executive with high profile organisations, beyondblue: the national depression initiative and reachout.com and was the founder and CEO of the Young and Well Cooperative Research Centre raising over $100M in capital.
She is the Founder and Non-Executive Director of InnoWell and a Non-Executive Director with APPLI. She was a Harkness Fellow in Health Care Policy, a VicHealth Fellow in Health Promotion and an NHMRC Fellow in Suicide Prevention. In recognition for her achievements in entrepreneurship she won the category of Social Enterprise for 2015’s Australian Financial Review and Westpac Group 100 Women of Influence, and was a Victorian Finalist in the 2017 Telstra Business Women’s Awards.
Dr Eli Kotler
MBBS MPM FRANZCP Cert. Old Age Psych. AFRACMA
Eli is a consultant psychiatrist, holds an academic position at Monash University through the Alfred Psychiatry Research Centre, and is the medical director of Malvern Private Hospital, the first addiction hospital in Australia. He is a member of the Australasian Professional Society on Alcohol and other Drugs (APSAD). Clinically, Eli is interested in the deep connections between trauma and addiction and works within a neuro-psychoanalytic framework. Eli has overseen the development of a clinical program for addictions focused on trauma, particularly developmental trauma. This has led to an interest in medication-assisted trauma therapy. Eli worked for many years researching neurodegenerative diseases and was the principle investigator on numerous trials for novel therapeutics. He is founding member of the Melbourne Neuropsychoanalytic Group and welcomes new members. Through involvement with Monash University, Eli oversees the addiction rotation for medical students.
Eli graduated from the first intake of the Certificate in Psychedelic-Assisted Therapies (CPAT) in June 2021. He has also been recently appointed as the Principal Investigator to lead Emyria’s upcoming MDMA trial.
Dr Simon Longstaff AO
Dr Simon Longstaff commenced his work as the first Executive Director of The Ethics Centre in 1991. He undertook postgraduate studies in Philosophy as a Member of Magdalene College, Cambridge.
Simon is a Fellow of CPA Australia and in June 2016, was appointed an Honorary Professor at the Australian National University – based at the National Centre for Indigenous Studies. Formerly serving as the inaugural President of The Australian Association for Professional & Applied Ethics, Simon serves on a number of boards and committees across a broad spectrum of activities. He was formerly a Fellow of the World Economic Forum.
Simon’s distinguished career includes being named as one of AFR Boss’ True Leaders for the 21st century. In 2013 Dr Longstaff was made an officer of the Order of Australia (AO) for “distinguished service to the community through the promotion of ethical standards in governance and business, to improving corporate responsibility, and to philosophy.”
Monojit (Mono) Ray
B.Sc., LL.B, LL.M, GradDipLP, GradDipEnt
Mono Ray is a corporate advisor and former PwC Tax and Legal Partner turned Change Agent. He has advised national and global companies across industries for 30 years on innovations including the privatisation of energy, establishing electronic and foreign banking and many significant deals. With a love of helping people achieve difficult things, he’s also the Managing Director and co-founder of ConnectAlex, a platform that gives people ways to build savings faster, and a non-executive director of Kidney Health Australia.
Mono served on industry bodies including the Financial Services Council, Property Council of Australia and the Australian Financial Centre Forum Reference Group. He consulted with state and federal regulators to design policy and legislation.
He has a B.Sc. (Neuropsychology), LL.B, LL.M (Investor Protection & Tax), and postgraduate qualifications in business and is a Solicitor of the High Court of Australia and the NSW Supreme Court. Mono has a passion for driving change for the better in business and society through technology, evolutionary approaches and resetting boundaries.
Hon Andrew Robb AO
B.Sc., LL.B, LL.M, GradDipLP, GradDipEnt
Until his recent retirement from politics, Andrew Robb was Australia’s Minister for Trade, Investment and Tourism.
In this role Mr Robb negotiated Free Trade Agreements with South Korea, Japan and China, as well as the 12 country Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade agreement and the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership with Singapore.
Mr Robb is currently Executive Chairman of The Robb Group (A corporate and investment advisory company), a Board Member of the Kidman cattle enterprise, Chair of Asialink and pharmacogenetics company, CNSDose, and strategic advisor to Seafarms Ltd as well as a range of national and international businesses.
In 2003, Mr Robb was awarded the office of the Order of Australia (AO) for his service to agriculture, politics and the community. As well, Mr Robb is the author of “Black Dog Daze: Public Life, Private Demons” (Melbourne University Publishing).
Mr Robb has qualifications in Agricultural Science and a first-class Honours Degree in Economics, and lives in Sydney with his wife Maureen and has three adult children Tom, Joe and Pip.
Nicholas Smedley is an experienced Investment Banker and M&A Advisor, with 14 years’ experience at UBS and KPMG. He has worked on M&A transactions in the UK, Hong Kong, China, and Australia with transactions ranging from the A$9bn defence of WMC Resources through to the investment of $65m into Catch.com.au. Has previously supported Mental Health charities with 6 years on the Haven Foundation Board. During Nicholas’ time at the Haven Foundation he helped deliver its first on balance sheet housing project in Frankston with a strong financial benefit to the Foundation. Nicholas currently oversees investments in the Property, Aged care, Technology and Medical Technology space and is Chairman of Respiri Limited (ASX: RSH). Key areas of expertise include M&A, Debt structuring, Corporate governance and innovation. He holds a Bachelor of Commerce from Monash University.