Family of dead patient seek legal options

Lagi Keresoma

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Lawyer Leulua’iali’i Olinda Woodroffe

Lawyer Leulua’iali’i Olinda Woodroffe

by Lagi Keresoma

APIA: THURSDAY 1 AUGUST 2013: A lawyer is to consider the legal options available to the family of mentally ill patient Perry Gam Tuilaepa who died in prison nearly two years ago.

One of the options is an appeal of the coroner’s ruling of 12 July that the cause of Tuilaepa’s death was hanging by suicide.

“I have been instructed by the family to examine the ruling in the case and to look at the options in law that the family ought to implement,” said lawyer Leulua’iali’i Olinda Woodroffe.

Leulua’iali’i said there are many options available to the family and Perry’s Estate, including an appeal of the ruling and civil action over his treatment before he died.

She waits to be given all the documents she asked Tuilaepa’s family for, she said, and was therefore unable to give more details.

But the New Zealand-based lawyer said she was available for an interview upon arrival in Samoa tomorrow.

The family did tell her Tuilaepa was a permanent resident of New Zealand and a Samoan citizen.

Evidence at the inquest into his death said the deceased left for New Zealand and returned in 2000 to Samoa where he lived with the family of his first cousin Constable Maria Malaelu at Saoluafata.

He died on 19 November 2011 in a cell at Tafaigata prison, where he’d been transferred to because no facilities existed at Tupua Tamasese Meaole (TTM) Hospital to keep or restrict mentally ill patients in need of medical treatment.

Strip - Maota

He’d become violent at home and his sister and an uncle had taken him to hospital on 8 November 2011.

Pisaina Tago at nurse at TTM’s mental health unit had known Perry Tuilaepa as a patient for about two years.

“According to Nurse Tago the deceased suffered from schizophrenia due to drug abuse,” said the coroner.

“She explained that whenever a relapse occurred (often due to poor compliance with treatment) it led a patient to behave in an acutely psychotic manner,” he said.

Evidence at the inquest says the patient was given injections on 11 November 2011 but by whom and whether they were administered at hospital or in prison is unknown.

Initially Tuilaepa was kept in a remand cell but ended up in a cell for prisoners for reasons that are unknown.

He had a fight with a prisoner resident in another cell the night of 18 November 2011.

Tafaigata Prison.

Tafaigata Prison.

Afternoon the next day he was found dead in his cell by hanging.

The coroner found he’d died by hanging and no foul play was involved.

He recommended the Mental Health Unit of the Ministry of Health which is responsible for administering treatment and the Police which is responsible for running the prisons “work a lot closer on defining guidelines on how and where mentally ill patients are kept in prison while receiving treatment.”