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Sinclair brain-damaged by years of solvent abuse: inquest

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Years of solvent abuse didn't kill Brian Sinclair, but it led him to be in a hospital emergency waiting room for hours until he died, an inquest into his death heard Thursday.

Dr. Marc Del Bigio told the inquest that Sinclair had come to the Health Sciences Centre 50 times since 1979 and showed evidence of brain damage when he was 18.

A few years later CT scans showed brain atrophy with signs of cognitive impairment, Del Bigio said. By 2007 Sinclair's cognitive function had deteriorated to the point he couldn't say what day or year it was.

Sinclair, 45, died September 21, 2008, after spending 34 hours in the HSC emergency waiting area.

"I don't want to say it didn't go wrong with Mr. Sinclair's medical care, but at some point people have to recognize what people do can lead to bad outcomes," Del Bigio said.

Del Bigio, a specialist in brain and spinal cord function, said Sinclair's bladder didn't work on its own -- requiring a catheter so he could void his urine -- because of his brain and spinal cord damage due to solvent abuse.

An autopsy showed he died of a bladder infection. The inquest has heard Sinclair could have lived if the blocked catheter had been changed and antibiotics given.

Del Bigio admitted he sent an email to the province's chief medical examiner expressing his concerns that the inquest wouldn't look at role of a doctor at the Health Action Centre, which sent Sinclair to hospital by Handi-Transit taxi after determining his catheter needed to be replaced.

"He had brain damage and essentially dementia," Del Bigio said. "If you tell him to go in a cab and get out and tell someone, he might not be able to do that properly."

The inquest has heard when Sinclair arrived at HSC, he went briefly to the emergency triage desk, where he spoke to a uniformed employee who wrote something down, before rolling his wheelchair to the waiting area.

Thirty-four hours later another person in the waiting room alerted a security guard that a man appeared to have died there. After HSC staff determined Sinclair was dead, they found the clinic doctor's note still in his pocket.

Kevin.rollason@freepress.mb.ca

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