Proposed Manitoba law could save lives, say families of at-risk patients

A mother who experienced the tragic loss of a loved one first-hand said a new provincial bill introduced Tuesday could make all the difference for families like hers.

The new law would ensure that patients considered at risk of harm to themselves or others won’t be released from hospital without first contacting their families and letting them know why.

Bonnie Bricker, whose son Reid died by suicide in 2015, told 680 CJOB that an extra heads-up could have been a lifesaver in her son’s case.

“In my heart, I think it would’ve had a different outcome,” she said.

“It would’ve given us a window of opportunity for the family to gather around Reid and tell him how much we love him – how much worth his life has – and to say, ‘let’s explore some more options’.”

The proposed Bill 5 would give doctors the opportunity to communicate with families, even if the patient hasn’t given permission.

Manitoba’s current privacy laws don’t give health providers that option unless self-harm is considered imminent, which Bricker said doesn’t accurately take into account the way suicidal thoughts can temporarily subside.

Removing the reference to ‘imminent’, she said, is a step in the right direction.

“Someone comes into the emergency department and they’re in an emergent situation. They’re highly sensitive, very ill, lots of pain – they just want off the planet,” she said.

“They’re meant to sit there for a couple of hours, waiting to go through triage, waiting to meet a doctor on the other side. Maybe by that point, maybe that crisis has dimmed down to just urgent or maybe stable.

“Their conversation, their reaction, their communication with that doctor is different than it would’ve been in that emergent crisis.”

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