The Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) says they had no grounds to detain a 32-year-old man who was declared missing after leaving Victoria Hospital and later found dead.
The SHA released a statement on Wednesday offering condolences to the family of Dwight Whitehead, who was last seen on Jan. 2, and found dead on the morning of Jan. 16. In it, they declined to comment on the specifics of the case, citing privacy legislation, but said they cannot force patients to stay if they don’t want to.
Whitehead was found in a snowbank on Jan. 2 and driven to Victoria Hospital where his family says he received treatment for hypothermia. However, he was allowed to leave, and was last seen at around 6 p.m. on the 1200 block of 24th Street West.
“The SHA recognizes the right of every individual to refuse care, treatment or medication,” reads the SHA statement. “If a patient/client wishes to leave against the advice of a care provider the medical risks shall be explained to the patient/client or those responsible for them.”
The SHA response comes after Whitehead’s family asked the FSIN to investigate why he was allowed to leave the hospital. Gloria Sanderson, Whitehead’s mother, said she’s hoping for more answers now that they’ve found Dwight’s body.
“Although this is not the conclusion we would not have liked, we are extremely grateful to have found my son Dwight,” Sanderson said in a prepared statement on Tuesday. “It was really hard to see him in a hospital gown, and we would like answers as to why next of kin or the police weren’t notified, because he was in a high risk and vulnerable state.”
Sanderson said the last few days have been difficult for the family. As of Tuesday, they were still waiting for the autopsy to be finished before making plans for a wake or funeral.
Sanderson said the family received plenty of support during the search. She thanked the PAGC Search and Rescue, FSIN, band members, the Prince Albert Police Service, Prince Albert Fire Department, and the paramedics who cared for Dwight after he was found on Jan. 2 and taken to hospital.
“There are just so many people I could have said thank you to,” Sanderson said.
Sanderson added that it was good to have closure, since many families of missing persons never get it. However, she said it’s still been difficult.
“Right now, we’re just trying to make sure each and every one of us are okay,” she said.