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A family's grief

LOSS: Jonathan Malia's aunt Michelle Fullerton (left) and his grandmother Mervis Fullerton

THE DISTRAUGHT family of a 24-year-old Birmingham man is demanding answers following his death in hospital where he was being treated for a mental condition.

Jonathan Malia suffered a cardiac arrest and died in Lister District General Hospital, Stevenage on January 17 after being transferred from the nearby Cygnet Hospital where he had been staying for nearly two weeks.

But in the days leading up to his death, Jonathan’s family was not allowed to see or talk to him, despite his girlfriend making daily phone calls to the hospital which was 85 miles away from his Birmingham home.

Now his aunt Michelle Fullerton is leading the family’s fight to find out what really happened to the physically fit young dad, who regularly played rugby and had hopes of becoming a sports therapist.

“Jonathan went into hospital as a voluntary patient at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QE) in Birmingham because he was suffering a mental breakdown and knew he needed help. Two weeks later he is dead,” said Michelle.

“He was transferred from the QE to Meadow Croft in Winson Green before being sent to Stevenage on January 7,” she continued.

“We want to establish what went wrong because far too many cases like this, particularly involving the African Caribbean community, get swept under the carpet. We’re relieved there is now going to be an inquest in three months’ time,” Michelle stated.

Unfortunately, Jonathan knew he was ill, but told his girlfriend he didn’t want the rest of the family to know he had been sectioned and was in hospital. Consequently, his mum Jacqueline only found out about his condition minutes before he died.

And in a second blow, Jacqueline, who suffers from a bipolar condition like her son, is now also being treated in hospital – a situation which Michelle believes has been brought on by the shock of Jonathan’s death.

“There is no doubt that Jonathan would be alive now if we had known more about his condition,” argued Michelle. “That is why we are now campaigning for a ‘Jonathan’s Law’ where mental health patients should have more than one next of kin.


MYSTERY: Jonathan Malia

“We want to know why he was not allowed to see anyone. His girlfriend was constantly being told he was too ill, too lethargic, too sedated or too dehydrated to come to the phone. We want justice and we want answers,” demanded the grieving aunt.

GRIEF

Deepening the family’s grief is what Michelle said were problems gaining access to see Jonathan’s body following their journey from Birmingham. Eventually they were granted access to view the body for 15 minutes only, and were told they could not touch the body as this would compromise the investigation.

Errol Robinson, a Birmingham solicitor who is acting for the family, said: “The pain and distress that these deaths cause and the disturbing numbers make it imperative that there be full and thorough investigations.

“I am pleased that the coroner has accepted my representations in this case to hold an inquest so that the full facts of this tragic case can be discovered.”

A spokesperson for Cygnet Healthcare in Stevenage, said: “We offer our sincerest condolences to the family and friends of Mr Malia, at what must be an unimaginably difficult time.

“Nothing is more important to us than the well being of those who use our services.

The spokesperson, however, said “whilst we await the final reports, we believe that we did all that we could to look after Mr Malia whilst he was at our facility. When his physical health began to deteriorate, we brought Mr Malia to the local hospital, where he later sadly passed away.

The spokesperson said further that “we have met Mr Malia’s family and will remain in contact with them to answer any questions they may have. We continue to work closely with all authorities involved in this process.”

Jonathan’s case mirrors that of Kingsley Burrell, also from Birmingham, who died four days after being detained by West Midlands Police in March 2011. His funeral took place 17 months later, but a full inquest into the cause of his death is yet to be held.

Matilda MacAttram, director of Black Mental Health UK, said: “Just three weeks into the New Year, the last thing anyone would have expected to hear is that there has been yet another death of a young man from the African Caribbean community while detained in mental health services. It’s like the lessons from all the other fatalities have not been learnt.”

A funeral for Jonathan will be held at 12noon at St Philip’s Church, Beeches Road, West Bromwich, on March 8.

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