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Central Newfoundland woman held against her will at hospital, Supreme Court rules

JOE GIBBONS/The Telegram
The Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador.
-Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram
JOE GIBBONS/The Telegram The Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador.

The Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador has found that a 56-year-old woman was held against her will at the Central Newfoundland Regional Health Centre in April 2016.

In a decision brought down on Feb. 7, Justice David Peddle ruled a female patient had been unlawfully detained in the psychiatric unit and she should have been granted habeus corpus, according to the law.

“She stated in her application that she ‘is being held against her will and unlawfully.’ Alarm bells should have been ringing at this point,” said Peddle.

“The lack of immediate action to address the situation is a flagrant disregard for (the patient)’s legislated right to liberty and freedom of choice.”

The 56-year-old woman, identified as E.D. in the documents, was brought to the psychiatric ward on April 16, 2016 by the RCMP and involuntarily admitted to the unit. She had no prior record of psychiatric hospital admissions.

She applied for a review of her involuntary admission, but before she could get a hearing, she was decertified as an involuntary patient.

On April 29, she applied for a habeas corpus, claiming that she had been held at the psychiatric unit against her will. Though she was released from the unit on May 2, she sought a ruling from the Supreme Court on whether or not she was held against her will.

Testimonials from doctors at the hospital state that the patient was informed that she was no longer certified as involuntarily admitted to the hospital on April 28. The doctor said that E.D. was agreeable to staying in the unit of her own free will.

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In the decision, Peddle writes “there is no evidence that (the patient) was advised that she had the right to leave the psychiatric unit,” which is required under the Mental Health Care and Treatment Act.

Peddle says even if the patient didn’t ask to be discharged once she was no longer an involuntary patient, it should have been explained to her that she had the right to leave.

The documents show some confusion about whether or not the patient was due to remain in the psychiatric unit or be sent home.

Peddle says he doesn’t understand how there could have been any confusion at all.

“In the circumstances that have been outlined, I am satisfied that it is more likely than not that Central Health deprived (the patient) of her liberty against her will,” said Peddle.

Peddle said keeping her at the unit was therefore unlawful.

Looking at the case of Andrew Abbass, who was detained in Western Memorial Hospital in 2015, Justice Peddle says that as in the Abbass case, habeus corpus should have been granted in this situation.  

“The right to liberty is a distinctive feature of our democracy. It can only be interfered with when sanctioned by law,” said Peddle.

“The weight of the evidence supports the probability that (the patient) was detained after decertification at the Central Newfoundland Regional Health Centre psychiatric unit against her will.”

The patient was awarded a to-be-determined settlement based on the incident.

david.maher@thetelegram.com

Twitter: DavidMaherNL

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