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Autism's Harsh Reality: The Death of Harry Horne-Roberts

Posted Dec 28 2009 10:03pm

Tragedy By John Stone

The parents of Harry, Jennie and Keith, have issued the following press release:

Harry Horne-Roberts born 29th June 1989, had been in the care of the London Borough of Islington since August 2007, as his ageing parents Jennie, a Barrister and Keith, an Architect, could no longer keep him safely at home. He lived near them in supported accommodation and they took him on outings 4-5 times per week. They are described by his Daycentre as 'brilliant, devoted parents'.

Harry was described by the Tavistock Centre in London as highly intelligent. He became autistic aged 1 having received the MMR jab then. He was however an outstanding artist and musician and had already had many exhibitions in London.

Harry sometimes became anxious and would then be noisy, sometimes staying awake late.  Jennie and Keith discovered to their horror after his death that his medication, which they had thought was a tranquillizer such as valium, was in fact Chlorpromazine a dangerous anti-psychotic drug which can cause sudden death and heart failure. He had been taking 150 grams of this per day. His parents tried to visit his psychiatrist but were cut out of his health care and received no replies to their several letter to Dr. Jaydeokar of Haringey LDP (Learning Disability Partnership) near Harry's care home.

Harry died in his sleep of heart failure on the morning of 16th December 2009, having been healthy and active when his parents took him for a walk in Epping Forest two days before. He was physically healthy and had had only two colds in his life. He was overweight, about 20 stone, which is an additional reason why he should not have been prescribed any anti-psychotic medication (as these increase weight).He was certainly NOT psychotic. He had late onset autism with its accompanying anxieties. He should have been helped, not given chemical cosh which resulted in his death.

His parents are utterly devastated as well as grief-stricken. Everybody loved Harry who was a very special boy.

Is Britain now a fascist murdering state? It would seem so. Many others may have died, and more be still at risk.

Our most beloved and talented son Harry R.I.P.

Jennifer and Keith Horne-Roberts.

Harry’s  tragic death poses horrify question for those of us watching our autistic children grow up. I first encountered Harry aged 7 or 8 sitting at table drawing at the local school we were visiting – he was smiling and completely absorbed in what he was doing: the walls were covered in his pictures. And I saw him out walking with his parents a couple of times in the last year.

Jennie and Keith are successful professional people. After the UK MMR litigation collapsed in 2004 it was  Jennie who as a barrister-attorney  led an appeal over ten of the cases, including Harry’s, to the European court. It is utterly dismaying that parents of this level of competence, not to mention legal and advocacy skills – with their utter devotion to their child  – could simply be cut out of the consultation process regarding his health and well-being because he had become an adult. And then we see the kinds of decision which were made for Harry on his behalf by the faceless ones, which were apparently to cost him his life. Even if we can half protect our children from this sort of thing while we are alive, how can we do so after we are gone?

Of course anti-psychotic drugs are quite widely used for non psychotic conditions but chlorpromazine, the original chemical lobotomiser from the early 1950s, with its highly sedative effect (and far more general side effects than later products) is a surprising choice. Nor, if we are giving such drugs to young people just of our school is this any prescription for life: it looks as if Harry paid the ultimate price at 20, but the long term effects for those that survive are potentially awful indeed. To prescribe such a drug rather than to meet a young adult’s special needs is an admission of institutional failure.
I do not know the full story of this appalling affair, but I am quite sure that if Jennie and Keith believed that it could be properly resolved by normal routes they would not be acting as they are now.  Their quest for change deserves all our support.

John Stone is UK Contributor for Age of Autism
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