Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Weak links

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IT is unfortunate Wilson Hall's family found his body lying in an unmarked grave at Brookside Cemetery last week. He was missing for four months, but their efforts to find him proved fruitless until last week.

Mr. Hall, homeless by choice, died of a heart attack at St. Boniface Hospital in April. His identity was known and after the hospital made initial attempts to find next of kin, the body was handed to the chief medical examiner's office, which held it for 28 days. It tried to find his family, but failed.

The CME's office is investigating. The family insists it could have been tracked through provincial social assistance, police or the health system's records. The fact is two agencies made efforts, and the CME's office was told no family was on record at income assistance.

Some 75 bodies were unclaimed and turned over to the CME's office in 2012. About half were not connected with next of kin. The Anatomy Act doesn't expressly spell out which agency has responsibility to make such efforts -- it should, and also permit information to be shared by state agencies to do that.

Ultimately, the weak link here was that Mr. Hall's family felt "uncomfortable" asking police for assistance early. The family wants the body moved to their home community for reburial. That should be the family's task, not the state's.

Editorials are the consensus view of the Winnipeg Free Press’ editorial board, comprising Catherine Mitchell, David O’Brien, Shannon Sampert, and Paul Samyn.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 13, 2013 A6

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