30% of Killings by Schizophrenics `Are Preventable'

By Judd, Terri | The Independent (London, England), December 18, 2000 | Go to article overview
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30% of Killings by Schizophrenics `Are Preventable'

Judd, Terri, The Independent (London, England)

EIGHT YEARS after Jonathan Zito was stabbed to death by a paranoid schizophrenic on a London Underground platform, a mental health charity says the same fatal errors that led to his killing continue to be made.

Yesterday, on the anniversary of the 27-year-old musician's death, and the eve of a White Paper on the Mental Health Act, an investigation into killings by psychiatric patients has shown a startling number of common threads.

An examination of independent inquiries into the deaths of 35 people, by the mental health charity, Sane, has identified a string of common flaws in the treatment of the killers and the same recommendations being made time and time again, leading to the conclusion that little is being learnt from successive tragedies.

A simple lack of communication rather than misdiagnosis was proved to be the primary catalyst in most deaths, blamed in 96 per cent of cases. It was one of the errors highlighted by an inquiry into the care of Jonathan Zito's killer, Christopher Clunis.

"The inquiries are conducted at a local level when they have recommendations which have national implications and should be implemented nationally," said Michael Howlett, director of the Zito Trust.

The Sane study found one- third of the killings were deemed predictable or preventable. "I have been to about 30 of these inquiries, and each one echoes the other," said Marjorie Wallace of Sane yesterday.

In 91 per cent of cases researched by Sane, inadequate care plans upon discharge from hospital were blamed. A lack of risk assessment was seen as a fatal flaw highlighted by 78 per cent of inquiries - also a problem in the Zito case.

"Not all of these homicides might have occurred if steps to improve these two factors had been taken," Ms Wallace said.

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30% of Killings by Schizophrenics `Are Preventable'


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