The sister of a mentally ill Perth woman who killed herself after taking a euthanasia drug claims the mental health system failed to take seriously new evidence of her suicide plan before letting her discharge herself.
The treatment and care the 39-year-old mother of four, whose name has been suppressed and is known as “Ms D”, received before her suicide is being examined at a coronial inquest this week.
After six weeks of involuntary treatment, Ms D – suffering severe post-natal depression after the birth of her fourth child – flew out of Australia and was found unconscious in her hotel room and died 10 days later in hospital on May 10, 2008.
Sally Doyle today told the inquest her sister was so unwell it would have been almost impossible to manage her in the community and she should have remained as an involuntary patient at King Edward Memorial Hospital’s mother baby unit.
Staff at the unit found a travel itinerary, passport application and an overdue library slip for a euthanasia book in the woman’s belongings.
Despite being aware of this plan, Ms D managed to convince the Mental Health Review Board she was improving and did not have any current suicide plans, prompting them to remove her involuntary status.
The next day she discharged herself from the mother baby unit and was put on a community treatment order under the care of Fremantle Hospital’s Alma St Clinic.
The woman had promised the board she would stay on at the mother baby unit as a voluntary patient.
Soon after the board’s decision, staff found $650 worth of traveller’s cheques hidden under Ms D’s mattress. Ms Doyle said that discovery was proof her sister’s suicide plans were ongoing and should have triggered a reassessment of her status.
Ms Doyle said Alma St staff appeared to completely overlook the issue of travel being associated with her sister’s suicide plan after her sibling told them she was going down south for a week, when in fact she was flying out of Australia.
She had told her estranged husband she was travelling to Los Angeles, to among other things visit the set of her favourite TV show The Bold and the Beautiful.
Ms Doyle said before her admission into the mother baby unit her family staged an intervention and her sister confessed to her she believed that nothing would work, she would never feel better and death was the only solution. She said her sister believed she had a right to a peaceful death and questioned why her family wanted to deny her that.
She described her and her other two sisters as her sibling’s carers, but Ms D did not want to any details of her treatment divulged to her sisters.
Although staff told the woman’s estranged husband about the evidence of Ms D’s suicide plan, her sisters had no idea, the inquest heard.
If you or someone you know is thinking of suicide, phone Lifeline WA on 13 11 14.