Inquest Findings leave bereaved families still seeking justice

“The legal system obviously does not equal the justice system … so far we haven’t had justice,

Justine Wilkinson,
Mother of Caitlin Wilkinson Whiticker whose decade long battle
with mental illness came to an end when she died
within months of closure of the Barrett Centre

 

Today, Deputy State Coroner, John Lock handed down his findings into the deaths of Talieha Nebauer, Will Fowell and Caitlin Wilkinson Whiticker, the three young people who died within months of the closure of the Barrett Adolescent Centre (a healthcare facility which, during its 30 years of operation, had a record of no former patient dying within at least a year of their transition from the specialised care and education provided within the multidisciplinary inpatient program).  The families of each of the three young people were in attendance to hear the summarised version read by the Coroner and received written copies of the full report following today’s proceedings. A redacted version of the full report (omitting information relating to patient confidentiality and issues that may lead to a possible contagion effect) is available online at the Coroner’s Court website. (click this linked text to download).

In today’s oral overview, the Coroner outlined that, while there had been some continuity of care issues in certain circumstances, other factors specific to each individual were significant influences on the suicides of each of the three young people. Despite the inquest being yet another arduous and traumatic process for the bereaved families, it had been seen as an important step towards their need for justice, for official and public acknowledgement that the treatment of those who needed carefully structured healthcare and support was lacking at a time when it was essential.

The need for proper recognition of the ‘cohort of young people suffering severe, complex and persisting mental health issues’ remains a strong motivator for many whose lives were significantly affected by the closure process and by the surfeit of services that could respond to the unique treatment and support requirements of these young people. The response of the current government – whose pledge to create a new adolescent inpatient extended treatment facility should reach fruition with the opening of the new centre due for early 2020  – has been welcomed across the state by families who have exhausted all the healthcare options in their desperation to find help for young people who are at the highest level of risk. With the new centre focussed on those who need inpatient care (as well as offering day programs for young people who need such services in the Brisbane area), it’s hoped that there will be more developments that will change attitudes, deepen understanding and, in practical terms, fill the gaps in services from healthcare, education and across other sectors with delivery approaches that ensure easy and effective accessibility by those whose daily lives are dictated by their severe suffering.

With the inquest now concluded, Shine lawyer, Tiffany Marsh, indicated that legal action on behalf the families was being undertaken and was hoped to illuminate some of the key issues that may not have been included in the Coroner’s findings.

 

FOR MEDIA REPORTING ON THE CORONER’S FINDINGS, go to our
IN THE MEDIA page
where links can be found under ‘CORONIAL INQUEST

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