WA’S secretive Mental Health Review Board released a severely depressed patient into the community even though she’d concocted an elaborate plan to kill herself and murder her baby in Mexico in 2008.
Psychiatrist Mojdeh Bassiri told the coroner’s court this week the 39-year-old mother of four—who can now only be referred to as Ms D—convinced the board to cancel her involuntary stay at the mother and baby unit at King Edward hospital.
Three weeks later she called the mental health unit at Fremantle Hospital, where she had become a voluntary patient, to say she was “going south” for a holiday with friends.
Instead she flew to Tijuana and overdosed on a veterinary drug recommended by euthanasia advocate Philip Nitschke.
Dr Bassiri told the court she was surprised at the board’s decision.
She’d treated Ms D for severe post-natal depression after the birth of her fourth child, who’s now six.
A health department staffer had faxed her report on the woman to the wrong phone number, so the three-member board didn’t have a copy when it met.
Dr Bassiri instead gave a verbal summary and pleaded for Ms D’s detention to continue at the Subiaco unit, but she told the court she was often interrupted by one board member who “derailed” her arguments.
“The board said Ms D (who was there) had the capacity to make decisions about her own care,” she said, adding members including a psychiatrist acknowledged if she discharged herself she could be placed on a community treatment order, which she was.
“I was very surprised by the decision. Given the items found in her room, we [the treating team] were very concerned she would act on the [suicide] plan,” Dr Bassiri said.
Family counsel Sharon Keeling asked Dr Bassiri’s whether she did enough to impress upon board members the high suicide risk to Ms D, who had read Dr Nitschke’s book, applied for a passport and bought traveller’s cheques to fly to Mexico while in the unit.
“One of my main concerns was, had I been given the opportunity to go through my report in its entirety and as it was set out, perhaps it would have highlighted the risk issues much more clearer to the board,” she said.
Dr Bassiri said she was very “explicit” about the scenario of taking Ms D off her involuntary status: “I was alerting them that she was capable of doing it, she was able to present herself better, present herself very well, to the point she gave assurances that were not genuine. Tragically and unfortunately, I predicted what would happen.”
The Herald has contacted the board which said it could not comment on matters before the coroner’s court.
The board’s deliberations, and even it’s membership, is kept from the public’s eye by WA’s mental health act.
by CARMELO AMALFI