12 May 2016

DHB smoking ban set to go to Supreme Court

1:50 pm on 12 May 2016

A psychiatric patient fighting to overturn a hospital smoking ban is set to go to the Supreme Court.

The Court of Appeal yesterday ruled the smoke-free policy, which has been in force at all Waitemata District Health Board sites in Auckland since 2009, does not breach patient rights.

It has upheld a High Court ruling from 2013, that the ban is not discriminatory nor inhumane.

no smoking sign

The Court of Appeal yesterday ruled the Waitemata District Health Board's smoke-free policy does not breach patient rights. Photo: 123RF

The unnamed patient's lawyer, Richard Francois, said the DHB only enforced the policy strictly on the most acutely unwell psychiatric patients.

"It's the patients in the ICU, the intensive care unit in psychiatric care, that are discriminated against because they can't go outside [off-site], they can't go outside and have a cigarette where as the other patients can."

Mr Francois said it was not just a legal fight but a moral one and he planned to take it to the Supreme Court.

One patient, Nicky Stevens, who was 21, was being treated after a suicide attempt when he was found dead in the Waikato River last year. He had left the Waikato mental health unit to have a cigarette.

His father Dave Macpherson said many people with mental illnesses smoked and should be allowed to have a cigarette in a safe environment within hospital grounds.

"Like it or not, many people with mental illness are smokers, our son was, and at his hospital, just like Waitemata they're forced to go out, literally on the streets, to have a smoke without proper or any supervision and it's really dangerous to their future."

Mr Macpherson said the Waitemata District Health Board's total smoking ban was inhumane.

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