Lexi Daken’s family hires lawyer in bid to access medical records

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The family of a teenage girl whose death by suicide has prompted a review of mental health services, is seeking legal help. Lexi Daken’s family has hired a lawyer as they try to get access to her medical records. Tim Roszell reports. – May 6, 2021

Lexi Daken‘s family has hired a lawyer to help them retrieve her medical records more than two months after her death.

The 16-year-old died by suicide Feb. 24.

Just days earlier, she had spent eight hours at Dr. Everett Chalmers Regional Hospital in Fredericton seeking help for mental health challenges. She eventually left the hospital without receiving any attention.

Chris Daken, Lexi’s father, said after consulting with the Department of Health, he filled out an application for his daughter’s medical records through Horizon Health Network in early March.

Read more: Lexi Daken’s family says provincial review a ‘good first step’

In mid-April, the family received notice that their request had been rejected.

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“You would think as a parent that … you would have access to their health records as a parent,” Daken said. “But apparently in New Brunswick, it’s not (the case).”

Daken said Horizon, in its rejection, told the family it could not release the information due to provincial privacy laws. At age 16, Lexi owned her medical records, either alive or dead.

Now the Dakens have hired a lawyer to access them.

“By us having her health records, I don’t see how it does any harm to Lexi,” Daken said. “We’re kind of questioning why they don’t want to give them to us.”

Margaret Melanson, VP of quality and patient-centred care for Horizon Health Network, told Global News in an email that “Any decisions related to the release of confidential health records are carried out in accordance with New Brunswick’s Personal Health Information Privacy and Access Act.”

Melanson said allowing access to personal medical information — for a person living or dead — can only occur “under very specific circumstances.”

“For deceased individuals, the requestor must demonstrate that they are either the executor or the court-appointed administrator of the deceased individual’s estate and they must establish that the requested health records are required for the administration of the person’s estate,” Melanson said. “Generally speaking, parents (of children 16 years old or over) or family members with no right of access are not entitled to obtaining medical information.”

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Read more: Report on emergency mental health care completed, NB health says

Daken said the family “never envisioned that it was going to be this kind of a hassle to get health records.”

“Especially for — I can’t even say a deceased adult because they’re still 16. They’re still considered a child.”

Daken says he’s been told the process could take about a month, but he believes it will be longer.

Department of Health spokesperson Bruce McFarlane confirmed in an email that the minister’s office consulted with the family about medical records, “but we cannot get into specific details about legal issues at this time.”

If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs help, resources are available. In case of an emergency, please call 911 for immediate help.

For a directory of support services in your area, visit the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention.

Learn more about how to help someone in crisis here.

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