T&T judge orders doctors to hand over records in mental hospital case

(Trinidad Express) The doctors who treated Cheryl Miller at the St Ann’s Psychiatric Hospital have been ordered to hand over her medical records to independent psychiatrist Dr Gerard Hutchinson, who will determine whether Miller needs further treatment and, if so, what kind of treatment is required.

The report is to be submitted to the Registry of the Port of Spain High Court under a cover of confidentiality by April 27.

Miller, an accounts clerk at the Ministry of Gender, Youth and Child Development, was removed from her workplace on March 21 and taken to the St Ann’s Psychiatric Hospital.

She was released on Good Friday (April 6) after her attorneys filed a writ of habeas corpus, which was heard by Justice Vashist Kokaram.

Kokaram, upon ordering Miller’s release on April 6, directed that she be assessed by Hutchinson prior to the matter being heard again yesterday.

Miller arrived at the Hall of Justice yesterday accompanied by several relatives, friends and co-workers. She was greeted at the entrance by Spiritual Baptist Archbishop Monica Randoo, who presented her flowers.

Inside the courtroom, Miller sat quietly.

Kokaram said his main concern was the process which was engaged to admit Miller to the hospital. He said doctors at the hospital diagnosed Miller as suffering with schizophrenia, but Hutchinson, in his report, said she did not pose a danger to herself or members of the public.

Senior Counsel Russell Martineau, who is representing the hospital’s director, Dr Ian Hypolite, and, by extension, the State, said it is possible that whatever treatment was administered to Miller at the hospital may have worked. Martineau said Hutchinson’s report does not suggest there is nothing wrong with Miller but that her problem was not acute.

“It must be borne in mind that she received two weeks of treatment at the institution,” Martineau said.

“The report (Hutchinson’s) supports to a large extent what my client and witnesses on affidavit have said.”

Martineau told the court that Hypolite is of the view there is a need for Miller to be continually assessed.

Kokaram said there appears to be two different accounts of the circumstances in which Miller was found at her workplace. He said one account is that Miller had displayed some unusual behaviour and was talking loudly while another account alleges she had an umbrella over her head.

Kokaram said the court is concerned with what process was engaged to deprive Miller of her liberty by admitting her to the hospital.

He said the State is submitting that Miller was removed under Section 15:1 of the Mental Health Act, which sets out the circumstances in which a mental health officer may apprehend an individual for the purpose of admission.

It states: “If a person found wandering at large on a highway or in any public place and who, by reason of his appearance, conduct or conversation, a mental health officer has reason to believe is mentally ill and in need of care and treatment in a psychiatric hospital or ward may be taken into custody and conveyed to such hospital or ward for admission for observation in accordance with this section.”

Senior Counsel Stanley Marcus, who leads attorney Fitzgerald Hinds on behalf of Miller, told Kokaram that Section 15:1 of the Mental Health Act deals with individuals who are wandering. He said Miller has been employed in the Public Service for 24 years and has never displayed any signs of mental illness.

“The very narrow issue is whether Miss Miller was found wandering in a public place,” Kokaram said.

“Is the workplace a public place? Is the cubicle a public place ?”

The judge said the question also arises as to what course of action should employers take if and when an employee suffers a mental breakdown on the job.

Kokaram, after giving directions for the filing of legal submissions, adjourned the matter to May 3.


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