Patients who kill are victims too

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From Dr J. V. Stone

Sir: The victims of a flawed mental health care policy include the killers as well as the killed. To argue, as Jane Zito does (Another View, 28 July), that patients who kill should not receive compensation, distracts attention from the root cause of such tragedies: the failure of community care.

Both types of victims (the killers and the killed) should be able to seek compensation. Monetary compensation is no substitute for accountability, but it does at least demonstrate the culpability of government policy. For a government that seems to evaluate policies only in terms of monetary cost, compensation may prove to be a powerful force for change.

More importantly, those of us at the front-line of community care cannot afford to be distracted by arguments about which victims of community care are more deserving of compensation. This issue has arisen as a result of poor mental health care, and it will disappear once we have an effective mental health system in place. Arguing about who should receive compensation will not speed the emergence of such a system.

Yours sincerely,

J. V. Stone,

Joint Co-ordinator

Shenley Relatives' Link

Brighton, Sussex

28 July