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A Grieving Brother Asks Why Tim had to Die

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Ross Henderson
Journal Staff Writer
Edmonton
June 10, 2000

Almost a year after his mentally-ill brother disappeared on a day-pass from Alberta hospital Edmonton, Pat Dawson is taking his ashes home for a memorial service in Saskatoon on Monday.

The body of his 42-year-old brother Tim, who suffered manic depression, was recently found on a remote shore of the North Saskatchewan River near Two hills.

After about 11 months in the water, all that was left was Tim’s skeleton and the clothes he wore, including a special type of shoe he had requested that was like his brother Pat’s.

Pat, 44, a licensed nurse at University Hospital, said Alberta Hospital Edmonton let his brother out on a day pass on July 15 last year, to be escorted to a group home.

He said no one was at the group home, and Tim apparently wandered off.

He said he still can’t believe the hospital let that happen.

“He probably went into the river that day,” Pat said Friday, the day Tim’s remains were cremated.

He said it wasn’t until a day after Tim’s release that he found out his brother was missing.

Pat remembers searching Edmonton streets and filing a missing-person report with police.

Finding Tim’s body was “not a relief” he said.

“It’s a lot of pain. I was pretty sure he was in the river. But, you’re always hoping that he wouldn’t be, so there’s another chance, eh?”

Pat said he’s angry the hospital let out his brother, because he believes Tim clearly wasn’t healthy enough to go. He said no one has been reprimanded.

“I think when it comes down to a death, they should hold somebody responsible,” he said. “But they don’t. They an blame it on everything else.”

When Tim was still alive Pat went to the hospital, before or after work, for a 30-day stretch to ensure he took his medication, which he was refusing to do.

“He had a seizure in there. He had short term-memory loss from the seizure. He couldn’t remember his room number, or put on his socks,” Pat said. “And they let him out on a pass.”

Ron LaJeunesse, Alberta head of the Canadian Mental Health Association, called the case “a real tragedy. I suspect it was a professional judgment. People thought he was doing better than he was.”

He added: “The frank truth is that the hospitals are trying to discharge people as quickly as they are able. They lack community resources to do that.”

The province isn’t spending enough money to provide adequate, supervised group homes, or to develop more rigorous regulations for private, for-profit homes, LaJeunesse said.

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