Case shows need to review privacy laws' effect on safety

Tayler Andrews would have turned a year old last week, on June 16. It was a difficult day for his grandmother and grandfather.

They fretted, mourned and re-asked themselves a lot of questions.

Why couldn’t we stop it? Why did no one help? Why didn’t anyone listen?

You probably recall the recent, sad stories in the media about Tayler. They told of the fatal stabbings of the baby and his mother Mary Burchell, 24, in mid-March. They told how Tayler’s father Dan, a swordmaker allegedly wracked by hallucinations, schizophrenia and religious paranoia, was named by deputies as the killer.

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This case raises questions about just how many red flags have to be waved before something is done about someone who is mentally ill.

The chronology below this editorial shows that government and mental health workers were told on numerous occasions in the 34 days before the killings that Dan Andrews had access to swords, had made threats toward the baby and was dangerous.

Fears voiced by the baby’s extended family were conveyed to at least two investigators with the state Department of Social Services Children’s Division on two separate occasions, to at least two Douglas County deputies, and to an undetermined number of mental health workers at the behavioral health center at Ozarks Medical Center in West Plains.

The Andrews case also suggests that government and health care workers have become so worried about laws protecting privacy, especially regarding health conditions, that they could be inadvertently creating public risk.

Read the full commentary on News-Leader.com.

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