The events and issues surrounding Finn's death have been the subject of three internal reviews by the Capital and Coast Health Board in Wellington, New Zealand, a national NZ Section 95 enquiry and in February 2010 his inquest.
After two years of painful recall and enquiry Finn's family welcome official recognition and acknowledgement of the many failures in Finn's case but are disappointed with the quality and accuracy of the section 95 enquiry and the coroner's inquest.
The large number of improvements deemed necessary after Finn's death is an indictment of the inadequate care offered by Capital and Coast District Health Board[CCDHB] mental health crisis teams[CATT].
Diane Allard was the Duty Authorised Officer who failed to assist Finn in the hours before his death. She contravened the Mental Health Act and the Memorandum of Understanding with the police [in place since 2000] by asking police to remove Finn from his home without ensuring there was a qualified health worker to attend. Her defence was –that was how they and the police had been working for years. It is true that neither Wellington police nor the Capital and Coast Health Board managers or mental health workers seemed to know about or work from the MOU. When interviewed Diane Allard failed to comprehend that her actions were effectively criminalising vulnerable people in need of expert mental health services.
We asked Capital and Coast District Health Board for reassurances that Ms Allard would receive training in this area and her work monitored to ensure it met the necessary standard. They have refused to do that.
Throughout all the enquiries we have been disturbed by the inexcusable ignorance of Aspergers and Autistic Spectrum disorder amongst mental health professionals at every level. Of particular concern was the contribution of Professor Graham Mellsop who became involved in Finn’s case when he undertook the CCDHB sentinel event review.
In that report he wrote:-
"There is no known evidence based association of Aspergers with depressive illness in general, or most particularly with adverse response to antidepressant medication."
That statement is inaccurate. Professor Tony Atwood who has worked and published extensively in the Autism/Aspergers area for several decades responded with the following:-
“I can quite clearly state that there is an association between Asperger's syndrome and clinical depression. I do suggest that the psychiatrist checks the research literature before making such a statement.”
Professor Mellsop then went on to express an opinion that Finn did not have Aspergers. The only evidence he presented was that Finn had been a drummer in a group and had contributed to blog sites.
Every reputable psychiatrist knows that any diagnosis for the Autistic Spectrum requires a variety of information, from the person, family and friends alongside an exploration of the family history/childhood in conjunction with the adult issues and characteristics. Professor Mellsop did not attempt to gather any of this information.
Professor Mellsop demonstrated a limited knowledge and understanding of Autistic Spectrum issues and characteristics. Sadly his influence prevented any effective recommendations to improve knowledge of the Autistic Spectrum and meaningful adoption of the New Zealand Autistic Spectrum Guidelines. The Autistic community in New Zealand would be right to be concerned about the widespread professional ignorance of ASD in mental health services and the level of care they may receive .