“Palliative care, Building A, St Vincent's Hospital Melbourne, is not a place you want to be; not, at least, for any length of time. The terminally ill, bedridden for the most part when I visit on a grey autumn afternoon, are fighting for their lives and, at the same time, contending with the unimaginable fear of imminent death. Circling discreetly around them are specialists, clinicians and nurses in light blue uniforms, with clipboards and cannulas in hand.
I'm waiting for psychologist Margaret Ross and psychiatrist Justin Dwyer, who walk swiftly along the palliative care unit's sixth-floor corridor to greet me. Ross and Dwyer are at the centre of the country's first clinical trial of psychedelic drugs for treating severe depression in the terminally ill. Within a month, they will begin recruiting 40 depressed and incurable patients in an attempt to relieve their distress with a novel treatment: between one and two 25-milligram doses of synthetic psilocybin, the psychedelic ingredient found in "magic mushrooms", accompanied by intensive psychotherapy sessions…” Continue reading