Paralympian and murder-accused Oscar Pistorius stands in the dock while a ruling is made at the high court in Pretoria on Wednesday, 14 May 2014. Pistorius must be sent for mental observation, Judge Thokozile Masipa ruled on Wednesday. Pistorius is charged with murdering his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. He shot her dead through the locked door of his toilet in his Pretoria home on February 14 last year. Pistorius has denied guilt, saying he thought she was an intruder about to open the door and attack him. The State contends he shot her during an argument. Picture: Werner Beukes/SAPA/Pool

Sending Oscar Pistorius to an institution to be observed for a month is a totally useless exercise and a gross waste of money on bed space that is desperately needed by more deserving psychiatric cases, says Dr EV Rapiti.

People with generalised anxiety disorders are not sent for observation because they are not conditions that you can easily feign.

The condition manifests either with or without a trigger factor (fear of heights, closed rooms, crowds, etc) and very often the individual has no control over his or her symptoms.

The condition is self-limiting but in very serious cases, patients need to remain on medication. The mainstay of treatment is psychotherapy.

I fail to see what the court would want to establish by placing Pistorius under observation because his psychiatrist has given a detailed explanation of his condition. If all the court wants to prove is whether Pistorius does have an anxiety disorder or not then it might be disappointed because he may not have an anxiety attack in a controlled and safe environment or if he is already on medication for his depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

The medications for his post-traumatic stress disorder would prevent his anxiety attacks.

The courts cannot expect his doctors to stop his medication just to prove their point when they already have the treating experts’ evidence at their disposal. To stop his medication would be unethical.

Nor will proving that Pistorius has an anxiety disorder help the defence or the prosecution’s case.

The fact that Pistorius had been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder begs the question, who approved the medical certificate rendering Pistorius fit to own a gun?

To the best of my knowledge, people with any mental condition are definitely not allowed to own guns – for their own safety and that of those around them. The courts need to look into this matter urgently in view of the high number of fatal killings with guns in this country.

Dr E V Rapiti

Mitchells Plain

* The views expressed here are nto necessarily those of Independent Newspapers.

Cape Argus