Parents fight to access records of dead daughter
July 28, 2021
FREDERICTON – The parents of a 16-year-old girl who committed suicide were initially prevented from seeing their daughter’s medical records at Horizon Health, where she went for treatment. The parents of Lexi Daken (pictured) are now being allowed to see the records – but only her last two visits, and only by agreeing not to share the records with media or other third parties, except legal advisers.
The 16-year-old tried to see a psychiatrist at the Everett Chalmers emergency room in Fredericton on Feb. 18, according to her family. They say she was suicidal, having already attempted to take her own life a couple of months earlier.
Despite waiting for over eight hours with her guidance counsellor, she never saw a psychiatrist, her family said. Instead, she was given a referral. Lexi died by suicide six days later.
Her family decided to speak out about what happened, hoping to spark change within the healthcare system. One of the steps they took was requesting Lexi’s medical records from Horizon Health Network.
Initially they were told no, because of the Personal Health Information Privacy and Access Act.
But recently they were informed through a lawyer that they could see the records from Lexi’s last two hospital visits, but only if they sign a form stating they won’t widely share the information, according to Chris Daken, Lexi’s father.
Those last two visits were on Feb. 18 – the day she sought help – and Feb. 24, the day she died.
“It’s hurtful, angry, we feel like we’re being backed into a corner,” said Daken. “It’s like saying, yes, we will give you this, but under our conditions.”
Horizon Health’s vice-president of quality and patient-centred care, Margaret Melanson, said in a statement: “Any decisions related to the release of confidential health records are carried out in accordance with New Brunswick’s Personal Health Information Privacy and Access Act.”
The family’s MLA, Kris Austin, told CTV News he understands the purpose of privacy policies, but in certain cases, parents should have more rights.
“I think they deserve to see them, and then what they choose to do with them I think should also be their choice as the parents,” he said.
Daken said the family will likely sign the form, hoping to get some answers, but they want to remain transparent with the public who’ve been following Lexi’s story.
“We hope that by speaking out about Lexi’s death that it will make some positive changes for the betterment of the people in New Brunswick,” he said. “And we hope to God no other parents have to go through what we went through.”
The New Brunswick Child and Youth Advocate’s office was expected to release a report sparked by Lexi’s death, at the end of July.
In a related article, John Sharpe, executive director of Partners for Youth, based in Fredericton, told CTV News: “We’ve known what needs to be done, for decades. And we haven’t done it.”
He says there have been many reports and reviews, which all paint pictures of a system that’s “overwhelmed, understaffed and inadequate for the care of youth.”
“We don’t want to rebuild the system. We want a new system … we want a transformed system. What that means is we have youth, family and community at the centre,” Sharpe said.
Lawyer Jody Carr has researched and written about the issue of mental healthcare access, and says it can take up to two years to see a psychiatrist or psychologist in N.B.
“We collectively are failing,” Carr said. “I think this is an opportunity that we work together to say we can do better, and we must do better. Not only morally, but also legally.”
Carr says there are also flaws in the province’s justice system and how it treats those with a mental illness.
Sharpe says Daken did everything right.
“A young person reached out for help. They asked for help, they waited for eight hours for help and help never came,” Sharpe said. “And if that doesn’t jar us to our core as a province to take a step back and look at what we’ve done in the last ten years to address youth mental healthcare and services in our province, I don’t know what will.”