Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Inquest allowed for homeless disabled man in Canada who died in hospital ER

From CBC in Canada:

The family of a homeless man who died during a 34-hour wait in a Winnipeg hospital emergency room has been given standing at an inquest into his death.

Brian Sinclair (pictured), a 45-year-old double amputee with a speech problem, was found dead in his wheelchair after the prolonged stay in the Health Sciences Centre emergency department waiting room last September.

It is important that Sinclair's family participate in the inquest, Judge Ray Wyant said Monday afternoon, during a hearing to determine who will have standing at the inquest — a date for which has yet to be set.

But Sinclair's relatives have not yet agreed to be present at the inquest. They had been intending to boycott it to protest what they said was inadequate funding to cover their legal costs.

About an hour prior to Wyant's ruling, the family held a news conference to accuse the government of discriminating against them by treating them in an inferior way.

Normally, a Crown counsel acts on behalf of a family at an inquest. In this case, the province had offered to pay the Sinclair family's lawyer the standard legal aid rate up to $40,000.

Family spokesperson Robert Sinclair said that was not enough, especially since the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority's legal team is being fully subsidized.

'We had to push the government all the way to this point. It's a family sticking up for principle and not taking no for an answer when it's fundamentally unjust.'
—Vilko Zbogar, Sinclair family lawyerThe Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC) supported the family's claim and stood with them at the news conference.

Wyant said he did not want to be directly involved in the funding dispute and asked the family and the provincial department of justice to work out the issue. The AMC volunteered to act as a mediator between the family and government.

Shortly after that was arranged, Manitoba's Justice Minister Dave Chomiak contacted the AMC and agreed to open negotiations on funding.

"We had to push the government all the way to this point. It's a family sticking up for principle and not taking no for an answer when it's fundamentally unjust," said Vilko Zbogar, the lawyer representing the Sinclair family.

The family might be pushing too much, however. Chomiak said they are requesting funding to fly in three lawyers from Toronto as well as an articling law student.

"[It is] a little bit unusual; quite unusual," he said.

There are enough capable Manitoba lawyers to handle the case, Chomiak said, but added the government is willing to sit down with the family and the AMC to work out an appropriate deal.

An autopsy determined Sinclair died as a result of a blood infection brought on by complications of a bladder infection caused by a blocked catheter.

His death could have been prevented had the blood infection been treated, Manitoba's chief medical examiner Dr. Thambirajah Balachandra said shortly after Sinclair's death. He announced in February that an inquest would be held.