RUG professor under fire

A vehement disagreement between depression experts has led to complaints being submitted to the Medical Disciplinary Tribunal and the RUG board about pharmacology professor Anton Loonen. 

Lonen feels that his colleagues Selma Eikelenboom and Peter Gøtsche’s reasoning ‘jumps to conclusions.’

The fight between the scientists is about the cause of several infamous murder cases, including that of Ids I., who shot his ex-wife, her boyfriend and friend, and who is currently serving 24 years in prison for his crime.

Ids I. was using antidepressants at the time of the murder. Severe aggression is a known, but rare, side effect of the medication. However, the question remains: could he be held accountable for his actions? In other words: were the pills the only cause of his sudden aggression?

Direct connection

‘The Dutch judicial system demands that direct connection’, says Loonen. ‘The Netherlands are very strict in that regard.’ Medication can be a decisive factor, says the professor. But in individual cases, it is impossible to say with certainty whether there is an exclusive and direct causal connection between medication and aggression, says Loonen.

Two other experts witnesses – forensic medical expert Selma Eikelenboom and Danish professor Gøtsche – do not share this opinion. ‘They place far too much emphasis on certain factors that suggest a connection’, says Loonen. ‘But they’re jumping to conclusions.’

He alludes to, among other things, a DNA defect that, in certain people, prevents the medication from being broken down well, which means they have excessive levels of antidepressants in their blood.


Loonen says the differences in the experts’ insights can be confusing for the judge. ‘And in one case, that confusion led to the suspect getting 24 years in prison instead of a reduced sentence.’ Unjustly strict, he feels. ‘Mrs. Eikelenboom’s report emphasises all the wrong phenomena.’

That emphasis led to a conviction because not only was the incident no accident, the reduced sentence due to a lack of criminal responsibility were also off the table. And that is reprehensible, says Loonen.

He feels that Ids I. was treated unjustly. That is why he is arguing for more research into the relationship between antidepressants and psychoses. ‘I hope we can get a discussion going. It’s screwed up that when someone holding a chainsaw faints and badly hurts someone, they are acquitted because it was an accident, but when someone is suffering from a psychosis brought on by medication and becomes convinced that not only they, but their wife and children, need to die, they are sent to jail for years. It’s not right.’

Heavy criticism

According to an article in de Volkskrant, Loonen heavily criticised his fellow experts in reports to the court. Concerning Eikelenboom, he allegedly said that she ‘might not possess the necessary breadth of knowledge.’ Of Gøtsche, he supposedly said, ‘I never investigated him, but as a professional, I’d like to say: he should be.’

Loonen does not want to comment further on the matter because the reports supposedly fall under the duty of secrecy of an expert witness.

The University Board has received Gøtsche’s complaint and will respond to it, says RUG spokesperson Gernant Deekens. ‘But Mr. Loonen does not represent the RUG as an expert witness’, Deekens emphasises. ‘That means that the RUG is not responsible for his actions in that capacity.’