Sunday, August 29, 1999

Low risk of new accident, says doc

By Helen Plischke
Staff Reporter

The chances that Julia Campagna will relapse into a psychotic state like the one that caused her to plow through a border crossing last year are "infintesimal," her Seattle psychiatrist told a New Westminster court.

Dr. Raymond Vath agreed with other psychiatrists who have testified at the Washington-state woman's trial -- that an over-the-counter weight-loss drug triggered a temporary psychosis last May 30.

Two lower Mainland women, Kimberly Brooks, 18, and Monique Ishikawa, 19, died when their car was struck from behind at the Peace Arch border crossing by Campagna's vehicle.

Campagna, 28, has pleasded not guilty to two counts of dangerous driving causing death. Both the Crown and her defense lawyers agree she is not criminally responsible for the accident, but a judge now has to decide whether to hospitalize her.

Two Vancouver-area psychiatrists who examined Campagna agreed her state was brought on by a herbal weight-loss drug called Xenedrine, whose main ingrediate is the stimulant ephedrine.

Campagna has no history of mental illness, even though her mother and a sister both take anti-psychotic medications, Vath said.

He said Campagna should avoid all stimulants, although he doesn't believe she would ever abuse drugs.

"The biggest risk to her is that she could be at a party and someone could slip something into her glass of wine, because Julia would never do that of her own volition."

Campagna hasn't driven since the accident. Her mental health is being monitored by Vath, as well as Washington-state bail officials.

She has shown no signs of mental illness and has been off all medication for nearly one year, Vath said.

She took two tablets twice a day for five days, stopping four days before the accident.

Ephedrine was linked to 50 deaths and even more cases of psychosis in the United States last year, he said.