B.C. families seek justice for lost loved ones, call for wrongful death law reform

As seen on CTV News by Tamina Aziz on May 7, 2022.

Dozens gathered in Vancouver Saturday for the inaugural “Mothers for Justice Memorial Walk.”

Many of those attending have lost loved ones, alleging the deaths were due to medical negligence. Now, they are channeling their grief into calls for justice and a campaign for change.

Emilie Negahban, who tragically lost her newborn baby just hours after giving birth in February, was among those gathered.

“We want something to change. I don’t want his death to be in vain. I don’t want his death to mean nothing,” she said.

Negahban is a cervical cancer survivor and called her son, Nathaniel Achilles Nicolas Addison, her miracle baby.

“I’ve been trying to cope. I’ve been trying to get through each day, but every single day, something reminds me of him. Something reminds me of my little boy,” she said.

Negahban alleges also negligence by medical staff at Lions Gate Hospital resulted in her baby’s death.

“This could happen to someone else. And this will continue to happen to other mothers, to other parents, to other children — until a change is made to our law,” she said.

Ann Forry and her family are also seeking justice. Forry’s 29-year-old daughter Natasha died from an undiagnosed infection in 2020, despite making multiple hospital visits.

“It’s actually a disgrace that B.C. has the worst wrongful death laws in Canada and it just doesn’t seem to be a priority for the government,” she said, adding that the last two years without her daughter have been extremely difficult to endure.

“It’s been an emotional rollercoaster. It adds to the trauma and the brief to know that there are no answers. There is no accountability,” Forry continued.

Bianca Gilbert shed many tears as she held a picture of Natasha, honouring her best friend.

“It’s like a wound that doesn’t really ever heal,” she cried.

“Natasha was my confidante. Like, I could talk to her about anything. And so, it’s really become more obvious that she’s gone when I don’t have my person to go and talk to,” she continued.

Don Renaud, a lawyer who specializes in birth injury and personal injury, said families facing these difficulties are left with very few legal options in the province.

“What you have is a lot of families facing a lot of grief, yes, but it’s aggravated by the injustice of them not being able to hold wrong-doers accountable,” he said.

He said cases like Negahban’s and Forry’s are frequent — he faces a new one every month.

Renaud said while families could try and sue for wrongful death, many don’t meet the requirements for fair compensation.

“[The province] needs a Wrongful Death Accountability Act. They need to mend the Wills, Estate and Succession Act which prohibits actions for what are called “non-pecuniary” damages. They need to give people the right to go to court,” he explained.

The BC Wrongful Death Law Reform Society has been pushing for these changes for decades and says if the change doesn’t happen now, it will only be a matter of time before there is another wrongful death – and another family left reeling.