By Eoin English
A woman whose husband killed their two daughters before taking his own life has expressed disappointment that a HSE review of his psychiatric care has failed to take on board her calls for greater family involvement in the care of people with mental illness.
Una Butler, who is campaigning for changes in the law to allow for a greater role for spouses, partners or close family members in the care regime in such cases, spoke out last night after receiving the HSE report five years after the tragedy.
“The findings in the report suggest that the tragedy that befell me was not preventable,” Ms Butler said.
“I strongly believe that had there been greater involvement in the treatment of John, the outcome may well have been different.
“Filicide and suicide are not uncommon in Ireland. From research carried out, quite a number of these involved people who had prior contact with the psychiatric services.
“Clearly there are lessons to be learned here” she said.
“It is wrong not to take a collateral/corroborative history from the family. If that is not done and the current regime continues, then we are likely to have another tragedy.
“I am advocating for a change to ensure no other family has to suffer the terrible tragedy that I did.”
Ms Butler’s husband, John, killed his daughters, Ella, two, and Zoe, six, at home in Ballycotton, Co Cork, in November 2010, before taking his own life.
Mr Butler had struggled with mental ill health and had been released from hospital just six weeks earlier.
Since then, Ms Butler has campaigned relentlessly for the HSE to conduct a “meaningful investigation” into her husband’s care. The HSE finally confirmed in February 2014 that a clinical review of Mr Butler’s care would be carried out.
The report, and its findings, were delivered to her on Wednesday.
Ms Butler expressed disappointment with its findings and said: “I believe the healthcare professionals have got this wrong.
“They focus on the person who is in front of them and of course, whilst this is right and correct, there is a failure to realise that the person that they are treating is interacting and has relations with a circle of people, be they family or friends.
“The person, whilst not living in isolation, is treated in isolation. I strongly believe that this is wrong.”
She said it is important that the family and children are considered by the healthcare professionals and she said a way must be found to include them in the care regime while still protecting patient confidentiality.
Her solicitor, Sinead Carroll, who has flagged this issue repeatedly with Health Minister Leo Varadkar and minister of state with responsibility for mental health, Kathleen Lynch, said the law has to be changed.
“The hands of doctors and medical practitioners are bound — they have to work within the current framework,” she said.
“But these tragedies keep happening. It is my opinion that patient confidentiality is on too high a pedestal and changes need to be introduced.” The HSE was not in a position to comment on the report last night.
Last month, Helen O’Driscoll, whose eldest son stabbed his younger twin brothers to death before taking his own life, also called for greater family involvement in the care of people with mental illness.
This article first appeared in the
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