Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Rule death a homicide: lawyer

Sinclair family counsel renews request for public inquiry

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Sinclair family lawyer Vilko Zbogar said Brian Sinclair's death was a homicide.

BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Sinclair family lawyer Vilko Zbogar said Brian Sinclair's death was a homicide. Photo Store

The lawyer for the family of Brian Sinclair stunned an inquest Thursday when he told the judge the man's death should be ruled a homicide.

Lawyer Vilko Zbogar said the family was again requesting a public inquiry into Sinclair's death.

An inquest was called and it began last year with Thursday being its last day. The judge has six months to write a report with recommendations, but he can ask for an extension if needed.

Zbogar told provincial court Judge Tim Preston he disagreed with provincial chief medical examiner Thambiraja Balachandra's conclusion 45-year-old Sinclair died "a natural death" in September 2008 when he took his last breath after 34 hours of waiting for care at Health Sciences Centre's emergency waiting room.

Zbogar said a person doesn't die a natural death when they have a treatable bladder infection and they're surrounded by dozens of trained medical staff in a hospital who do nothing to help you.

'If you don't give food to a person they will die. If you don't give medical treatment to a person who is sick they will die'

-- Vilko Zbogar, lawyer for the family of Brian Sinclair, speaking to reporters Thursday

"If you don't give food to a person they will die," Zbogar said.

"If you don't give medical treatment to a person who is sick they will die.

"The inquest should make a verdict this death was a homicide."

Zbogar told the judge while Winnipeg police -- in a report never made public -- recommended criminal charges be laid after a lengthy investigation, the Crown decided not to.

"You don't need to find someone was morally blameworthy to rule homicide, you just have to find it is because of human contribution."

Sinclair, a double amputee who used a wheelchair and had gone to the hospital to have a blocked urinary catheter checked and changed, may have died as many as seven hours before he was discovered dead in the waiting room.

The Sinclair family's other lawyer, Murray Trachtenberg, said the death wasn't caused by overcrowding or patient-flow issues.

"There were many, many hours Mr. Sinclair sat in the waiting room when it wasn't busy and when the nurses walked through the waiting room," Trachtenberg said.

"Mr. Sinclair was clearly visible to anyone who bothered to look... even if he'd just been a visitor there, he threw up twice. That's a clear sign of distress and he should have received medical care."

Trachtenberg said instead, cleaning staff cleaned the floor and security got him a large bowl to throw up in.

Trachtenberg said the only conclusion was staff "observed he was aboriginal, dishevelled and in a wheelchair. Prejudice was the overriding reason for the death of Mr. Sinclair."

Robert Sinclair, Sinclair's cousin, said he doesn't believe the truth about his cousin's death will ever come out.

"It's not the shape of the emergency room," he said. "It's not the lack of staff. I sincerely believe it was stereotyping of a bad nature.

"A public inquiry more broad would be better. To make people accountable."

Robert Sinclair said he knows what he would have done if he'd seen a person in his cousin's situation.

"As a human being, if I saw a struggling and sick person I would walk up and say 'Are you OK?' I'm a human.

"Why did that not happen with a trained medical staff?"

kevin.rollason@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 13, 2014 B1

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