The four recommendations – which were handed down at today’s brief inquest into the 2009 stabbing deaths of Nicholas Waterlow and his daughter Chloe Heuston – will seek to protect the health and safety of mental health patients, as well as their loved ones.
The move comes after four years of coronial proceedings following the brutal deaths of renowned Sydney Biennale curator Mr Waterlow and mother-of-three Mrs Heuston at the hands of their son and brother Antony Waterlow, who suffers from paranoid schizophrenia.
Mrs Heuston’s young daughter also sustained serious cuts to her neck, caused by a blow intended for her mother.
The inquest heard health professionals never detained Waterlow under the Mental Health Act and that he refused to take, and never received antipsychotic medication.
Waterlow was found not guilty on the grounds of mental illness in April, 2011.
Deputy State Coroner Paul MacMahon asked that NSW Health Minister Jillian Skinner amend the current act to give medical professionals the power to act against the will of their patients in extreme cases for a “person’s own protection from serious harm”.
This will take into consideration the harm caused by the mental illness itself on a patient, including degenerative brain disease, and for the protection of others from serious or emotional harm.
The magistrate recommended that the term “for protection of others from serious harm” – as detailed in the 2007 act – should be understood to include “for protection of others from serious emotional harm”, and that there is no uncertainty surrounding what help is available.
Speaking outside Glebe Coroner’s Court today, Luke Waterlow welcomed the findings.
“It’s been tough,” he said of the last few years.
“I think today there’s a document here which offers something to families like ours and for the future,” he said, adding it would hopefully cause “less ambiguity in the system”.
Mr Waterlow’s partner Juliet Darling said the much-loved arts figure and his daughter’s deaths were preventable had the Waterlow received the help he needed.
Waterlow’s friend and legal carer Gaye Bell said their calls for help fell on deaf ears and they were repeatedly told no action could be taken unless Waterlow harmed someone.
“If we’d been able to get help for Antony – and it would have had to be against his will – then the tragedy might not have played out,” she said, adding that since receiving treatment, Waterlow had come to the realisation he killed his father and sister.
“He now has to cope with what he’s done – he struggles with it every day.”
The inquest, first brought before Justice MacMahon in February 2010 and later suspended following Waterlow’s arrest, was reopened at the request of the deceased’s family in 2012.
This article first appeared on ‘Ninemsn’ on 10 January 2014.