13 Feb 2019

Nicky Stevens' family told DHB wants new inquest: 'We've never heard of a challenge like this'

7:40 am on 13 February 2019

Waikato District Health Board is demanding a new inquest for a man who took his own life after walking out of a mental health unit.

Nicky Stevens

Nicky Stevens Photo: Give a Little

Nicky Stevens, who was 21, was found dead in the Waikato River three days after walking out of Waikato Hospital's mental health unit in March 2015.

Last week his mother, Jane Stevens, told RNZ the DHB was challenging the coroner's findings from last year.

Coroner Wallace Bain ruled the death was a preventable suicide and found the treatment Mr Stevens received from the DHB fell short of what he and his parents would have expected.

Mrs Stevens said the family met with the DHB after the findings were released to discuss compensation and an apology and she had felt like they were acting in good faith.

But in January the DHB wrote to the family saying the DHB's insurer had raised considerable procedural concerns about the Coroner's findings with the solicitor general.

Now, the family have been sent a letter from the Solicitor-General's office, saying the DHB is calling for a new inquest.

Mrs Stevens said the family was reeling.

"This has really knocked us for six. We waited three and a half years for the first inquest and we just can't imagine having to go through another one.

"We've never heard of a challenge like this."

She said her son's death had now turned into a legal circus.

Nicky's father Dave Macpherson said he felt the DHB had been disingenuous.

"CEO Derek Wright told us to our face in a meeting at our home in December that they wanted to settle with us quickly and cleanly, and that while they had a few procedural issues with the inquest process, these would not stop the settlement process.

"Our whānau needs to heal, and to be able to let our boy lie in peace.

"It feels like our whānau are being punished for standing up and speaking out when it's very clear that the mental health system is failing many families."

The DHB last week said it responded to a draft coroner's report and had a "considerable number of procedural concerns".

It said the insurer had instructed the DHB's external counsel to raise concerns with the Solicitor-General in regard to the DHB's support.

"None of our decisions in this matter have been taken lightly, as we understand this has already been a lengthy and painful process for the family," the DHB's statement said.