Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

MD sued over suicide of patient

Doctor's second recent claim

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A Winnipeg family is suing a city emergency room doctor over a suicidal relative's death, claiming the physician was negligent by discharging the man hours after he tried taking his own life by ingesting a large cocktail of pills.

It's the second Fatal Accidents Act claim filed against Dr. Werner Van Dyk of Seven Oaks General Hospital since March 2012.

In a statement of claim filed in Court of Queen's Bench, the family of a 42-year-old man alleges Van Dyk and the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority (WRHA) breached a duty of care they owed him.

They're seeking unspecified financial damages for loss of companionship along with compensation for the costs of his burial and legal fees.

Statements of claim contain allegations that have not been proven or tested in court.

Neither Van Dyk nor the WRHA have filed statements of defence.

The Free Press is not identifying the deceased due to the sensitive nature of how the family says he came to be rushed to the Seven Oaks ER on the morning of Sept. 25, 2011.

The man's family says he attempted suicide around 7 a.m. inside an Elgin Avenue home by ingesting a large mixture of anti-anxiety pills and the synthetic opioid methadone. He left a suicide note on a dresser, they say.

Paramedics took him by ambulance to Seven Oaks hospital where he was treated for the overdose with drugs meant to keep him conscious, the family says, adding the plan was to keep him in hospital at least until the next morning.

About 12 hours later, the man was seen by a psychiatric nurse who deemed him to be a "patient at risk," according to the lawsuit. In consultation with the on-duty ER doctor, an "ER hold" was ordered, meaning he'd be kept until morning, the family says.

The lawsuit alleges Van Dyk took the case over shortly after and he "negligently discharged" the man at 11:52 p.m.

Other Seven Oaks staff who dealt with him didn't put up any fuss over this decision, the family claims.

He was sent home despite how "the entire staff who had seen the deceased and Dr. Van Dyk were fully aware that he had plans to further harm himself and that he still had a significant amount of methadone in his system."

The family claims he was put in a cab and sent home without anyone consulting with them. His mother saw him stumble into his bedroom and soon after saw him asleep when she went to check on him, the claim states.

His niece found him dead the next morning. An autopsy found the cause of death was a methadone overdose.

Van Dyk has denied wrongdoing in connection with a separate Fatal Accidents Act lawsuit from March 2012.

Tanis Hill alleges the doctor was negligent when he dismissed the family's concerns about the condition of Ronalee Hill, 33, who was born with Down syndrome and had limited cognitive function.

Tanis Hill claims Van Dyk refused to admit Ronalee Hill after he concluded the pain she was suffering was the result of a toothache and sent her home with a prescription for morphine.

She died the next day and the cause of death was double bronchial pneumonia.

In his statement of defence, Van Dyk denies his care caused or contributed to Hill's death.

The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority will not comment on a case currently before the courts, spokeswoman Heidi Graham said Monday.

The WRHA did investigate both cases internally, Graham said. Findings and apologies were shared with the families involved, Graham added.

james.turner@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 20, 2013 B1

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