Monday, July 30, 2012

No Great Surprise

No surprise on this at all:
A former University of Colorado graduate student accused of killing 12 people and wounding 58 others in a shooting rampage at a Denver-area movie theater last week had been under the care of a psychiatrist who was part of a campus threat-assessment team.
The disclosure came in court documents filed on Friday by lawyers for James Holmes, 24, who is accused of opening fire last Friday on a packed showing of the latest Batman movie, "The Dark Knight Rises," in the Denver suburb of Aurora.
The defense attorneys, in their request to an Arapahoe County district judge, are seeking a court order requiring prosecutors to turn over the contents of a package that Holmes sent to Dr. Lynne Fenton and was later seized by investigators.
"Mr. Holmes was a psychiatric patient of Dr. Fenton, and his communications with her are protected," the filing said.
Dr. Fenton has apparently done research on schizophrenia:
Lynne Fenton, 51, associate professor in the department of psychiatry at the University of Colorado-Denver medical campus, is medical director of student mental health services and a researcher into schizophrenia....
She has been medical director of the student mental health services since July 2009. She sees 15 to 20 graduate students per week for medication and psychotherapy, supervises psychiatric residents who treat students, and sees five to 10 general psychiatry patients, according to the university’s website.
University records show she is on the faculty of the university medical school’s Center for Schizophrenia Research and has lectured on bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorders.
 I don't blame Fenton for failure to act.  My guess is that doctors are reluctant to pursue commitment when there is little or not chance of getting the legal system to go along, because of the danger of it destroying trust between doctor and patient.  Psychiatrists have a duty under the Tarasoff Rule to inform police or a third-party if there is an identifiable likely victim.  But I rather doubt that the shooter in Aurora knew any of the people that he killed.


  1. But did she prescribe any SSRI drugs for him? I'm really curious.

  2. That would be doctor/patient privileged information. Schizophrenics are sometimes prescribed SSRI antidepressants in conjunction with antipsychotic medications, because depression is one of the symptoms of schizophrenia.

  3. She has a kind of sketchy history. Probably not pertinent but odd. Prescribing Vicodin for yourself or family is a big no no. You can lose your BNDD certificate for that. The schizophrenia is no surprise, as you said. This is almost a classic history.

  4. If, as seems likely, he pleads not guilty by reason of mental illness, the doctor/patient shield will be put aside, and we will be finding out what he was prescribed, what he was telling his doctor, etc.

  5. Denver Post says she referred him campus threat assessment team, but then he withdrew from the university.

    Threat assessment team doesn't include any LE and they were not informed.