Ici Radio-Canada: A mother demands justice after the death of her baby

As seen in Ici Radio-Canada by Raluca Tomulescu, 2nd November 2022.
Original article in French
English translation

Emilie Negahban (left) and her mother, Catherine Barry (right) have been fighting to modernize the Family Compensation Act in British Columbia, since Emilie and her partner lost their baby, Nathaniel, hours after childbirth. Photo: Radio-Canada / Raluca Tomulescu

DISCLAIMER: This story contains details that some readers may find upsetting.

Emilie Negahban lost her baby after a difficult delivery on February 4, in Vancouver. As former attorney general David Eby prepares to become premier of British Columbia, she calls for the modernization of the law called the Family Compensation Act, which determines who can seek restitution after a death is deemed wrongful.

All I wish was to be able to go home with my son because I did everything I should have done during my pregnancy to have a healthy baby , claims the 32-year-years, who survived cervical cancer.

But little Nathaniel died in the hospital a few hours after coming into the world because the delivery took too long, says his mother.

With her family, she is begging David Eby to intervene to change the law, because, when he was Attorney General, he said he made it a priority in December 2020, within the framework of the current mandate of the provincial government.

He reiterated this commitment in an email sent last May to Emilie Negahban’s mother, Catherine Barry, in response to one of his many calls to action.

Emily’s story

Emilie Negahban’s water broke on February 2, 2022.

She says it wasn’t until 30 hours after she first presented to Lions Gate Hospital in North Vancouver that the flare-ups could begin. She says she had to go home twice because her cervix was not dilated enough.

After more than three hours of pushing, the baby still did not come out. From the start, I told them that I had no problem doing a caesarean section, explains Emilie Neghaban […] But the doctor said: “No, we will try by natural means.”

The team then tried to use the obstetrical vacuum cup, an instrument that is applied to the baby’s head to help it come out, but it did not give more results after three attempts. It was then that Emilie Negahban was sent to the operating room for a caesarean section.

“  He was so stuck […] they had to push really hard on his head. When they pulled him, he wasn’t crying, he was all blue.  »

— A quote from  Emilie Negahban, mother of Nathaniel

Nathaniel later had to be transported to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at BC Children’s Hospital because he was unable to breathe on his own. Doctors could do nothing to save him, however, and he died in his mother’s arms.

Emilie Negahban and her partner, Robin Addison, hold their baby Nathaniel in their arms at British Columbia Children’s Hospital. Photo: Emilie Negahban

A traumatic childbirth

According to Emilie Negahban, the autopsy indicates that Nathaniel lost his life following a traumatic childbirth, during which he suffered from asphyxiation and a fractured skull. She adds that the report says that the child was otherwise healthy.

She adds that she learned of these results in July through a doctor, but that she never received the autopsy report.

An investigation remains open

The BC Coroners Service was unable to provide a copy to CBC/Radio-Canada, stating that this medical information is confidential.

An investigation into the death remains open , a spokesperson said.

Vancouver Coastal Health ( VCH) writes in an email: An extensive quality of care review was conducted [with the aim] of identifying system issues that could be improved. She, however, declined to give further details to CBC .

Lives deemed worthless

Emilie Negahban hopes that a situation like the one she experienced will not happen again. My goal is to change this law. […] We cannot bring the Hospital to justice because the children [are worth nothing] , she laments.

In fact, the Family Compensation Act does not take into account losses other than those resulting from financial damages, explains the lawyer of the firm DJJ Law, in Vancouver, Azool Jaffer-Jeraj, who is also a member of the Association of Jurists of French-speaking British Columbia (AJEFCB). Basically, he says, the lives of financially dependents, such as children or retired parents, are deemed worthless by the BC government and insurance companies.

”  The problem is that our legislation dates back to the 1800s.  “

— A quote from  Azool Jaffer-Jeraj, lawyer at DJJ Law in Vancouver

According to him, this law must be modernized to improve access to justice for families, but also, so that punitive damages can be imposed on those responsible for a wrongful death. This is how people learn lessons , he believes.


Family members who have lost loved ones deemed wrongful gathered at David Eby’s constituency office on May 7 to call for the modernization of the Family Compensation Act. Photo: Catherine Barry

A bill already ready

The BC Wrongful Death Law Reform Society is an organization that has been campaigning for the achievement of this objective for 25 years and tries to raise public awareness of this issue through the examples of people who have experienced a situation similar to that of Emilie Negahban.

According to its president, Michael-James Pennie , a proper law would place equal value on all human life and take into consideration the deprivation of care, guidance, love, affection and companionship felt when a family loses a loved one. its members unjustifiably.

The body says it met with David Eby in 2019. He prepared a draft bill, titled the Wrongful Death Accountability Act , a major step up from the current system , after consulting with other laws in Canada. He invites the government of British Columbia to review and present it.

The latest version was submitted to David Eby in 2021, according to the body.

According to the organization, the first version of the bill was drafted in 2017 and updated in 2020 and 2021, Ed .

In a statement, the department of new Attorney General Murray Rankin maintains that its goal is to address this issue within the mandate of the current government. However, he points out that there are a number of steps to take to get there.

“We would be happy to meet again with the [ BC Wrongful Death Law Reform Society ] as part of our stakeholder engagement process ,” the statement also said.

David Eby did not respond to CBC’s requests for comment/Radio Canada.

The next provincial election is scheduled for 2024 in British Columbia.

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About the BC Wrongful Death Law Reform Society

‘In Their Name’ is the campaign of ‘The BC Wrongful Death Law Reform Society’ – a BC registered non-profit organization comprised of volunteer families who have lost a loved one to wrongful death in BC and were denied access to justice. In response to the biggest human rights issue facing the province today, our goal is to modernize British Columbia’s antiquated wrongful death legislation, which predates confederation (1846). Under current legislation, the value of a human life is measured only by the deceased’s future lost income, so long as they had dependents.

As a result of the province’s antiquated law, access to justice has been denied to the families of the wrongfully killed who do not meet this discriminatory criteria. This has affected especially vulnerable groups, namely children, seniors, the disabled, and anyone without dependents when they are killed by the negligent or intentional acts of another.

BC is presently the last of all the provinces, yet to have undertaken this critical legislative modernization to allow for dignity, value, and protections for all its citizens under the law.

When it’s ‘free’ to kill in BC, wrongdoers are not held accountable. This lack of general deterrence holds the province back in terms of incentivizing innovation of safety measures and protocols to prevent wrongful deaths in the first place.

Here’s How You Can Get Involved…

The Premier of British Columbia, David Eby, is responsible for the modernization of BC’s wrongful death laws. Our Society provided David Eby with the drafted ‘Wrongful Death Accountability Act’ when he was acting as the Attorney General for British Columbia for 6 years between 2017-2022. The new Attorney General, Niki Sharma, also shares responsibility as she is the Minister responsible for the ‘Family Compensation Act’ – the current guiding piece of legislation that the civil courts must follow in cases of wrongful death. Minister Sharma receives feedback from the regional ‘Members of the Legislative Assembly’ (MLAs) and follows orders from the Premier, David Eby, who is ultimately responsible for modernization.

Reform is presently at a standstill, as the BC NDP government does not presently view access to justice for the surviving family members of the wrongfully killed as a priority in this province. This is despite the fact that the families behind our Society have been fighting for modernization for over two decades. And despite the fact that all other provinces, including the Yukon, have already modernized in most cases long ago.

The only way to move this forward is by creating massive public awareness and outcry for legislative modernization. Only under the scrutiny of the public and the media will our politicians be forced to take this necessary, and long overdue action.

How many more people will need to die from the same preventable wrongful actions before our politicians will do their job?

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