Monday, February 4, 2008

Loving mother who didn't understand what she was doing

Society has invested so much in the the "good mother" myth that when faced with cases that contradict this myth, experts resort to mental illness as the excuse. while so often when males are accused of such crimes there is no such invocation, take the Robert Farqharson case as an example - GR Klein

Independent (Ireland), 20 January 2008, By Larissa Nolan

Friends, colleagues and family never suspected the turmoil within this mild-mannered woman, writes Larissa Nolan

Not guilty by reason of insanity. It was only the second time in Irish history that those six words had been issued in a court in
Ireland, under new insanity laws.

On hearing them, Dr Lynn Gibbs' impassive face managed a smile, as family and friends came over to the bench where she sat in Court Number One of the Central Criminal Court.

Of course, there was little to smile about - the psychiatrist had spent two days on trial for the murder of her teenage daughter.

Lynn Gibbs admitted to drowning the 16-year-old in the bath after becoming convinced she was suffering from anorexia, and that there was no hope for Ciara. (One can only imagine what poor Lyn was thinking, perhaps something like, ......'You'll never amount to anything Ciara just like your father'....GRK )

It is something that Lynn Gibbs will have to deal with for the rest of her life. (Oh gee I feel so sorry for Lyn oh the terrible guilt she must feel.........what about the fucking victim, who was murdered, should we not feel sorry for her to have perished in such a heinous manner - GRK)

But with the verdict, Dr Gibbs and her family at least had the consolation of knowing that publicly, it had been recognised that she was not a bad, evil woman, who had cruelly killed her own child; but that she was deeply unwell at the time, suffering with - as a number of professionals testified - a severe form of psychotic depression and bipolar disorder (That allowed her to kill her daughter in cold blood, can you imagine the struggle that would have gone on as the mother held her daughter's writhing body under the water - GR KLIEN)

The only tragedy, the court heard, was that it hadn't been spotted sooner, by her friends, family and colleagues in the medical profession.

If so, the psychotic episode that led to the killing could have been
averted and Ciara Gibbs would still be alive today.

It is an intervention that those who knew the Gibbs family, from Killure, near Gowran, about 20km from
Kilkenny City, wish could have happened sooner.

Anne Ryan - a local activist who works with those suffering from mental health problems, to ensure they receive the proper treatment and care -- said it was shocking to think that Dr Gibbs had been working as a locum psychiatrist in the Department of Psychiatry in St Luke's Hospital in Kilkenny, but no-one spotted that she was suffering from a serious and dangerous form of depression.

Some colleagues and friends who work in the medical profession were aware that she was ill (maybe because she wasnt actually ill at all, just angry...GRK), but could not see she was headed for a psychotic episode that would lead to such tragic events.

"She was working as a psychiatrist with the HSE just a few weeks before the killing," said Ms Ryan.

"It is worth remembering that psychiatrists are just the same as everyone else - they suffer depression, they commit suicide, they fall victim to alcohol addiction, they self-medicate.

"They are not superhuman, just because their job is to look after the mental health of others. We cannot forget that."

Anne Ryan did not know Lynn Gibbs personally, but said that everyone else who knew her described her as "gentle" and "kind" and "a quiet lady". (who murdered her daughter in a fit of rage!)

A local businesswoman who knows Dr Gibbs well said she was the last person you would expect to carry out such an horrific act on her own child.

"She was quite nun-like, a quiet type who didn't make an impression one way or the other. If you saw her, you would hardly remember her. "

From a wealthy family, she was rich enough to afford to have her own apartment when she studied psychiatry in
Trinity College, Dublin.

"That was very unusual at the time, there was plenty of money in her family. They were rich farmers. When she married Gerard, there was a feeling she had wed below her," said the woman.

County Kilkenny person who knew her painted a picture of a somewhat controlling mother.

The Gibbs, Lynn, 47, and her college lecturer husband Gerard had two children, Ciara and her brother Gearoid, 14, neither of whom were allowed socialise much and were rarely seen out.

"Perhaps she was just over-anxious, but she seemed to like keeping Ciara and Gearoid at home all the time. You would never see them out, in fact, some people would not have even known they had children.

"After Ciara's death, a neighbour told me they did not even know there were kids in the house."

Locals say Ciara was a brilliant, hard-working student who got 13 As in her Junior Certificate exams. But she was not allowed to take the bus to her school in Loreto in Kilkenny and she was not allowed to use her mobile phone to call friends in the evening.

But those who knew
Lynn told Justice Paul Carney that she had been a loving mother who put her children before anything else.

Husband Gerard Gibbs even broke down in the witness stand, holding his head in his hands an whispering "she loved Ciara" in evident distress.

Psychotherapist Leslie Shoemaker says that sometimes, but not always, anorexia can be caused by growing up in a "perfectionist" environment.

Ms Shoemaker said: "Anorexia is a complex disorder, but in certain cases, it can be caused, maintained and even recovery can be scuppered by family relationships.

"You do get a pattern of anorexia sufferers who are children of controlling parents, a mother or a father who is a perfectionist. This pressure to be perfect is a trait in anorexics.

"Also, if the parent is isolating the child from others, this will also be a factor."

Perhaps it was her own background that led to Lynn Gibbs' over-anxiety about her daughter, worrying that Ciara, who weighed eight stone, was suffering from an eating disorder and feeling she would be better off dead. (the good doctor was practicing a bit of euthanasia, but I must admit her technique drowing in the bath, was perhaps less than humane........GRK)

Dr Gibbs' mother Iris Hutchison killed herself in 1983 when she drank weedkiller.

Last Wednesday, the jury took just 21 minutes to return the verdict of not guilty for reasons of insanity.

The jury agreed that she either did not know the quality of her actions; that she did not know what she was doing was wrong, or that she was unable to refrain from what she was doing.

She will remain in treatment at the
Central Mental Hospital in Dundrum until an order is made by the State for her release.

Justice Carney, in summing up, had advised the jury that to return any other verdict would be to suggest that "all psychiatry is bunkum".

Superintendent Aidan Roche, of Thomastown Garda Station, later said he welcomed the verdict.

(So much of this article is focused on justifying the killers actions with little mentioned of the consequences of the killers actions.....was she given special treatment because she was a woman, a mother, what do you think? - GRK)



Anonymous said...

Seeing as you are in Australia, you clearly know little about this case. Perhaps you are right about women being given an easier time by the courts - but this should not lead you to become paranoid and illogical. Do you think it is impossible for women to suffer a psychotic episode? Is it possible for me and not for women? Do you have no sympathy, understanding or knowledge about mental illness? Why the absolute disregard for the notion that this person (person - not woman) was extremely mentally unwell?
I was unsure of what had happened here, as at the end of the day, a mother has killed her child, which is probably the worst thing a person could do.
But after being in this court hearing for two days, I came to the conclusion that this woman was severely psychotically depressed, which led to this psychotic episode, which, granted, is an extreme example of a psychotic episide, but it DOES HAPPEN.
You should not be so judgemental - it could happen to you in the future.
Four psychiatrists, including the head psychiatrist of Ireland's leading psychiatric hospital, the Central mental Hospital, independently came to the conclusion that this person was very unwell and as a result, she became only the second person in the history of the state to be given the verdict: Not Guilty By Reason Of Insanity.
Educate yourself.
Your ignorant comments take away from any valid points you may have to make.

GR Klein said...

Thanks anonymous I think you make some interesting points.

Yes I do believe that it is possible for people both men and women to suffer from psychotic episodes.

I have had several years experience working in the mental health system, I have a bachelors degree in psychology and I am very familiar with the poisonous pedogogy that is psychiatry.

I am a big fan of Thomas Szasz and RD Laing who both offer in depth critiques of the discipline that is psychiatry. While Michel Foucault, has also produced some great work that challenges the validity of psychiatry. Peter Breggin has a great book called Toxic Psychiatry which is a great treatise on the flawed methodology of this field.

Having said that I agree that some of my comments could be percieved as judgemental and I accept that criticism.

My main aim in including this article was to demonstrate, as many other astute writers have done before, that all are not equal in the face of the law - ie black people, poor people and men and women.

The women who committed this terrible crime was from a priveleged position in society, an elite professional (psychiatrist), presumeably well off financially and able hire excellent legal representation.

And I stand by my earlier observation that in the article about this crime there was no mention of the suffering of the victim only the suffering of the perpetrator.

GR Klein said...

Furthermore, I might also add that if
we accept that she was having a psychotic episode while she was engaged in the process of murdering her daughter, and is thus innocent we might have to review every murder conviction ever made.

Because I grant you that in a large percentage of them the people who were declared guilty of murder were in fact in psychotic states when this occurred and thus should aslo perhaps be declared innocent?

Absurd you say, but when up to 70% of all men in prison have a mental illness should we not then say they should also be declared innocent because of their disability....what say you to that...?