WATCH: Lama Nicolas reports on why a missing woman’s family feels like the system is to blame for her disappearance.
TORONTO – Judy Szeman, 41, has been missing for six weeks and her family feels the system has failed her.
“It’s the family that’s left to pick up the pieces,” says her sister Eva Szeman.
“I have no idea where my sister is I have no idea if she’s alive or dead she has never not contacted us and never gone missing.”
Szeman spoke to her sister Judy the night before she went missing and could tell something was off. She says Judy sounded nonsensical and thought she might have stopped taking her medication.
The Szeman family has been fighting a legal battle since Judy was diagnosed with Sczhophrenia. Against her doctor’s orders, she fought to get off medication and recently won a hearing that allowed her to do so. With the help of a lawyer, she had what’s called a “community treatment order” lifted.
Minister of health Dr. Eric Hoskins said Tuesday that under the mental health act, a doctor is allowed to issue the order under very specific circumstances. But, Hoskins said, the family “can’t compel an individual to accept a community treatment order.”
The Community Treatment Order allowed Szeman to live outside a facility as long as she followed certain rules, like seeing her doctor regularly and taking her medication.
Her sister Judy wants the review hearings done away with.
“There should not be these review board hearings which allow lawyers championing the rights of people not capable of making decision to come in and take away their safety nets based on technicalities,” she said.
Her family had no say in the matter and argue the law needs to change.
“I really don’t believe the way the system is set up right now is working for the people that are the most vulnerable and most sick.”
Szeman left her family’s home in Mississauga on January 27t, saying she was going to a job interview and hasn’t been heard from since.
Lisa Feldstein is a health lawyer and says it’s tricky for the government to strike a balance between patient rights and families who feel they have their best interests at heart.
“Much to the great effort of patient advocacy groups, the law has been amended, but some people, particularly families feel the pendulum swung too far too much to protect autonomy.”
Szeman agrees patients like her sister should have rights, but thinks the law needs to change give families a say because they too are living with the disease.
“I’m so upset about the way the system works, now i’m suffering my sister is suffering and my family is suffering and i can’t imagine how many countless families are suffering.”
Szeman has been missing for six weeks, she doesn’t have money, identification or a cellphone. Police are investigating her disappearance.
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