Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Manitoba Appeal Court Hears Case of Man Who Died Waiting for ER Care

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Manitoba Appeal Court Hears Case of Man Who Died Waiting for ER Care

Article excerpt

Lawsuit over ER death in Appeal Court


WINNIPEG - The family of a man who died during a 34-hour wait in a Winnipeg emergency room is asking Manitoba's highest court to restore the heart of its lawsuit against the city's health authority.

Lawyer Murray Trachtenberg told three Appeal Court justices Monday that Brian Sinclair's charter rights were violated when he slowly died in a hospital waiting room in 2008.

Lower court judges struck down the heart of the family's lawsuit against the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, saying Sinclair's charter and privacy rights died with him.

But Trachtenberg said it's absurd that a man who died because he didn't receive the care due him under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms isn't allowed to sue because he's dead.

"The breaches in question took place while Mr. Sinclair was alive," Trachtenberg told the court. "The alleged breaches are the very actions and inactions which caused his death and necessitate his personal representative to bring forward the claim as he is obviously incapable of doing so."

Sinclair, a 45-year-old double amputee, died of a treatable bladder infection caused by a blocked catheter while waiting for care at Winnipeg's Health Sciences Centre.

Although Sinclair spoke to a triage aide when he first arrived at the emergency room, he was never formally entered into the hospital's system. He languished in the waiting room for hours, growing sicker and vomiting several times, but was never asked if he was OK or waiting for care.

By the time Sinclair was discovered dead, rigor mortis had set in.

An inquest into his death heard many employees assumed he was drunk, seeking shelter or had been seen and was waiting for a ride.

The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority has argued the Charter of Rights and Freedoms doesn't allow relatives to pursue a claim on behalf of a dead person.

That interpretation means the health authority won't be held to account, Trachtenberg said.

"If a state authority, by breaching someone's rights contrary to the charter, causes the death of that person ... no one is able to hold that state authority accountable," he said. …

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