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Schizophrenic stopped taking drugs; found not responsible for offences
Dropped medication for vitamin treatment
Jake Rupert
The Ottawa Citizen

A man suffering from chronic schizophrenia who stopped taking his medication in favour of a controversial vitamin supplement from a company under investigation by the RCMP, was yesterday found not criminally responsible for actions he committed while off the medication.

Caro Overdulve, 32, who was diagnosed with the disease in 1993, had not come in contact with the law until he stopped taking his prescribed anti-psychotic medication and started taking Empowerplus in 2001. The vitamin supplement is sold by Alberta-based Truehope Inc., whose offices were raided this summer by the RCMP and Health Canada.

However, after switching to the vitamins, which were marketed as a cure for several mental health problems, Mr. Overdulve was charged with assault, mischief and criminal harassment.

On May 10, Mr. Overdulve assaulted a man waiting for the elevator at his Deerfield Drive apartment building. On May 17, Mr. Overdulve carved a profanity in his neighbour's door.

Upon arrest, he was deemed unfit to stand trial due to mental illness, meaning he couldn't even communicate properly with a lawyer, and was remanded to the Royal Ottawa Hospital.

He remained so until mid-August when doctors got a court order allowing them to inject Mr. Overdulve with anti-psychotic medication.

By late September, the medication had worked enough to have Mr. Overdulve declared fit to stand trial. A subsequent assessment to see if Mr. Overdulve wasn't responsible for his actions because his illness made it impossible for him to appreciate the gravity of his actions, found he fit the definition.

"At the time of the offences, he was off his medications and only taking the vitamins," Mr. Overdulve's forensic psychiatrist, Dr. Reghuvaran Kunjukrishnan, said yesterday in court.

After hearing evidence from the doctor, Ontario Court Judge David Dempsey found Mr. Overdulve not guilty by reason of mental illness and remanded him back to the custody of the Royal Ottawa Hospital.

An Ontario Mental Health Review Board hearing will outline Mr. Overdulve's treatment and where he will live.

At yesterday's hearing and in two reports submitted in court, Dr. Kunjuk-rishnan said the prognosis for Mr. Overdulve is good as long as he continues taking prescribed medication. However, the doctor said, Mr. Overdulve wants to stop taking his medication and return to the vitamins.

"In the long term, he's still hoping he can go on these vitamins again and stop his medication, and I am quite skeptical about that," the doctor said and added that more behaviour such as that which landed Mr. Overdulve in court could be the result of such a move.

Health Canada has moved to block the sale and distribution of Empowerplus since the company was raided in the summer. It alleges they were holding the vitamins out as an alternative to traditional medications for people suffering from mental illness without having done proper clinical trials.

The company's marketing methods are also being examined.

According to the doctor's report, when Mr. Overdulve stopped taking his medication in 2001 in favour of the vitamins, he had "further deterioration and relapse of his illness."

 Copyright 2003 The Ottawa Citizen

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