Family faces painful year-long wait for teen’s autopsy report

The family of a 14-year-old girl who died unexpectedly says they’ve been told it will take up to a year for her autopsy report.

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The family of a 14-year-old girl who died unexpectedly says they’ve been told it will take up to a year for her autopsy report.

Talina Rampersad Husack died July 17 at Children’s Hospital intensive care unit with what’s believed to be viral pneumonia. The chief medical examiner’s office told the family that the report on the cause of her death isn’t expected to be available until well into 2023, a family spokesperson said.

“No parent should have to wait one year to find out how their healthy, vibrant 14-year-old daughter died,” said the spokesperson, who asked not to be identified.

SUPPLIED

Talina Rampersad Husock, 14, at her Grade 8 graduation on June 29,.

The director of the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner — which investigates deaths and orders autopsies, but doesn’t perform them — can’t comment on specific cases but said that in some cases it can take up to a year to get a final autopsy report.

“For some individuals, there are special tests that are performed as a part of an autopsy,” Kathryn Braun said Tuesday. “This is necessary to provide an accurate cause of death; so yes, it can take up to a year to get a final autopsy report.”

“All child deaths in Manitoba are reportable under the Fatality Inquires Act, however, autopsies are not automatic and are done on a case-by-case basis,” Braun said.

The autopsy is done as soon as possible, she said. The autopsy service is managed by Shared Health and Braun deferred to it for information regarding wait times.

The wait time for autopsy examinations in Manitoba is currently just under one week, a Shared Health spokesman said Tuesday, noting its pathologist team is fully staffed.

In April, Shared Health told the CBC that forensic pathologists in Manitoba conduct about 1,800 autopsies a year, up from 1,500 annually two years ago. Several reasons for the increase were cited, including more people dying at home, which requires an investigation, and an increase in fatal overdoses.

While Shared Health manages autopsy services, final autopsy reports are filed to the chief medical examiner’s office, its spokesman said.

That process can take up to a year, although the time frame will vary depending on the unique factors of each case, Braun said.

A source familiar with the situation who agreed to comment on the condition of anonymity echoed Braun, saying there can be long waits for special tests and that new hires who have replaced a wave of retirees, take time to get up to speed.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

There are special tests performed on some people as part of an autopsy so they can take longer, says Kathryn Braun, director of the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.

That’s cold comfort to those who are grieving and waiting for the findings of the final autopsy report, said NDP justice critic Nahanni Fontaine.

“When a family is hurting for the loss of their loved ones, for the system to tell them that they’re going to have to wait so long to find out, is just extra injurious to the family,” said Fontaine. She knew Talina from the time she was very young and is a friend of her mother, Naline Rampersad, who worked in cabinet communications under the former NDP government. “I know that this is the case for Talina’s family,” she said.

“Their daughter was healthy — just a healthy, vibrant, beautiful sweet little girl, and to have to wait for a year is, I can imagine, excruciating,” said Fontaine.

“It is unacceptable to think that a family has to wait for a full year to hopefully find out what ultimately led to the passing of their loved one,” said the member for St. Johns.

Fontaine said she’s spoken out about other families who waited a long time to find out how their loved ones died.

“This is a consequence of the failure of the (Progressive Conservative) government to fully resource and staff this office to carry out this important, critical, and what should be timely, work. These are the consequences when you starve the resources from units to be able to do the work that they need to do on behalf of Manitobans,” she said.

carol.sanders@freepress.mb.ca

Carol Sanders

Carol Sanders
Legislature reporter

After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.

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