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Families Closer To Getting Answers About Relatives' Institution Deaths
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
June 2, 2006

TORONTO, ONTARIO--The efforts of two Ontarians have led them and others one step closer to getting answers in the deaths of family members at psychiatric institutions.

Renata Braithwaite's mother died in April 2001 as an involuntary patient at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. Melba Braithwaite, 53, had schizophrenia and a seizure disorder and was supposed to be supervised while showering. After Melba was found alone on the floor of a shower, a nurse initially refused to treat her. "By the time the nurse attended to my mother, she had no vital signs," Renata told the Toronto Star.

Robert Illingworth's brother, Thomas, died in 1995 after he tried to leave the psychiatric wing of Humber Memorial Hospital. During a struggle with six staff members, the involuntary patient was physically restrained and injected a chemical restraint. He was found dead the next morning.

"I think his whole system just shut down on him," Robert said.

Renata and Robert have been lobbying for years to get coroners' investigations, or inquests, into their relatives' deaths. Such inquests are mandatory whenever someone dies while in custody of law enforcement or in prison. Whether an inquest is performed after the death of an institution resident, however, is entirely up to the coroner.

Retired Judge Peter Cory, in an important ruling for the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal, said that Braithwaite and Illingworth have been discriminated against on the basis of disability.

"The complainants have been denied the equal benefit of the law," Cory wrote in his 15-page decision.

"It should not be forgotten," he added, "that the parties have struggled valiantly and over an extended period of time to have a coroner's inquest held. They felt demeaned by the repeated refusals to hold an inquest."

Cory also awarded Illingworth and Braithwaite damages of $5,000 each, which is the largest award the tribunal can order.

"I screamed. I cried," Braithwaite said after the ruling. "I was so excited, because going forward I know I've made a difference to psychiatric patients. I've opened up the doors for their families not to suffer."

"Tribunal raps coroner's office" (Toronto Star)


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