Avoid undue delays in Sinclair case

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It is a mark of the polarized, emotional nature of the Brian Sinclair case that many Winnipeggers had an instant opinion of the value of a Winnipeg police investigation of the case: The investigation, announced last week, is either a political, public relations exercise or a long-past-due recognition that something nefarious happened when the disabled native man was left to die, unattended, in the Health Sciences Centre emergency waiting room.

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Opinion

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 21/10/2010 (4427 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

It is a mark of the polarized, emotional nature of the Brian Sinclair case that many Winnipeggers had an instant opinion of the value of a Winnipeg police investigation of the case: The investigation, announced last week, is either a political, public relations exercise or a long-past-due recognition that something nefarious happened when the disabled native man was left to die, unattended, in the Health Sciences Centre emergency waiting room.

The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority’s own version is that mistakes were made, but no one person was to blame for the fact Mr. Sinclair, a double amputee with a speech impediment, was left to sit, dying of a bladder infection caused by a blocked catheter. The WRHA initially said that Mr. Sinclair did not formally present himself to the triage desk, but may have had contact with some staff in the emergency ward on Sept. 19, 2008. It was learned that the man had spoken to a triage aide, but the content of that conversation has not been revealed.

That will be the focus of the inquest, called by Chief Medical Examiner Thambirajah Balachandra, who reviewed security tapes from the hospital. Dr. Balachandra noted a tape shows that Mr. Sinclair approached the triage desk. The medical examiner also noted that security staff tried to get a vomiting Mr. Sinclair medical assistance, but to no avail. Others waiting on the ward, suspecting Mr. Sinclair was dead, alerted security on Sept. 21. Attempts at resuscitation failed.

DALE CUMMINGS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS `e

Winnipeggers are understandably appalled by the death. The family has had legal counsel that pressed for a police investigation. Dr. Balachandra has said there was no reason for a criminal review because no one intended to kill this man. No one reasonably can cry murder in this case, but negligence in the line of duty can be cause for a criminal charge.

Winnipeg police have reviewed various materials and believe there are grounds for a formal investigation, but it is a leap to conclude that will lead to a charge.

That investigation must proceed, based on what is known, but it should be done with speed. There are many outstanding, critical questions behind Mr. Sinclair’s death and an inquest has been scheduled for more than a year. The quality of the evidence that will be based on people’s recollections suffers the longer an inquest is delayed. The WRHA and the hospital must be held to account. Many lives have been on hold awaiting resolution. A police investigation cannot be a perfunctory, political exercise, but undue delay erodes the value that can come of a public examination of how a man could sit for 34 hours in the province’s largest emergency ward as a simple infection took his life.

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