Manitoba wants to make it easier to notify families of suicidal patients

WINNIPEG — The Manitoba government is proposing making it easier for health-care professionals to alert family members of suicidal patients.

Current provincial law forbids medical professionals from sharing someone's personal information without their consent, unless there is a "serious and immediate risk" to their safety or the safety of others.

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A bill now before the legislature would change the wording and allow that information to be shared in any case where there is a "risk of serious harm."

Health Minister Cameron Friesen says health authorities and facilities will develop specific rules on how and with whom the information can be shared.

Bonnie Bricker, whose son Reid committed suicide after being discharged from a Winnipeg hospital in 2015, says the proposed law would help people in her situation.

Bricker was not told of her son's release because of health privacy laws, and his remains were later found near Selkirk, Man.

"Our son had made three attempts on his life," Bricker said Tuesday.

"It was three o'clock in the morning and he answered the competency questions accurately and they let him go."

Bricker said health-care professionals are scared to violate the privacy of patients and the wording of the government bill would ensure more families are informed about loved ones at risk of self-harm.

"This is going to create that tool for (doctors) to go 'Listen, you're not feeling good, so you can sit here for the next little while and we can call a friend, we can call your spouse, we can call a parent ... but I'm not comfortable with you going out by yourself.'"

Bricker's son had been discharged from three Winnipeg hospitals after three suicide attempts in 10 days in October 2015.

The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority said proper procedures were followed in his release, but Bricker has long said those procedures are flawed.

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