Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Benton would support legislation to report deaths -
Raleigh News and Observer

By Pat Stith, Staff Writer

Dempsey Benton, secretary of the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, said today that he would support legislation that would require all deaths in state psychiatric hospitals and other facilities operated by his department be reported to the Office of the State Medical Examiner.

"I don’t have any problem with that," Dempsey said during taping of a News & Observer/WRAL-TV program "Headline Saturday." "I think we do need to do a better job with reviewing those tragic situations and making sure that how we operate is known and understood by the public."

State law requires that all deaths of people in police custody, jails or prisons be reported but there is no requirement that "natural" deaths in psychiatric hospitals be reported.

The N&O will report on Sunday, in the last of a five-part series "Mental Disorder: The Failure of Reform," that state hospitals had labeled some deaths as natural that were actually the result of a patient being improperly medicated or choking on food.

The interview with Benton will be broadcast Saturday at 7 p.m.