Global News: Grieving B.C. parents’ baby was ready to go home from morgue for 8 weeks. But no one told them

As seen on Global News by Sean Boynton & John Hua, 8th April 2022.

WARNING: This story contains details and images that may be disturbing for some readers.

Emilie Negahban’s son Nathaniel was alive for only eight hours before he died in his mother’s arms this past February. But the first-time mother and her husband have been re-traumatized after learning their son’s body has been ready to be brought back home for eight weeks — and no one told them.

“It completely breaks me apart, and it enrages me,” Negahban told Global News in her North Vancouver home.

“I only got to spend a few minutes with him, and I just wanted to bring him home where he belongs. He belongs at home. He belongs with us.”

Nathaniel died after a difficult birth at Lions Gate Hospital that resulted in organ failure and a skull bleed. He was transferred to BC Women’s Hospital in Vancouver, where he died a short time later.

Baby Nathaniel in hospital before his death eight hours after birth. Submitted

Negahban says she immediately expressed her wishes to staff at BC Women’s to have Nathaniel’s body released to her as soon as possible, so the family could have him cremated and bring his ashes home.

“Every single person told me that his body wasn’t ready and that it would take a few months for it to be ready,” she said. “Nobody could really give me a reason why.”

After getting the same answers for two months, Negahban finally got through to staff at the BC Women’s morgue, who confirmed that Nathaniel had been ready to be picked up since Feb. 8 — just a few days after he had been born.

“That’s the part that hurts the most,” she said through tears. “Knowing that he’s all by himself, in a tiny little refrigerator in the cold, waiting for us to pick him up.

“How can this happen? How can they leave this tiny little baby by themselves in the morgue?”

Negahban says she was told the delay, which prevented the family from holding a larger memorial, was due to a “communication breakdown” between departments.

In a statement, the BC Women’s Hospital acknowledged the “difficult time” Negahban and her family have faced.

“We have been in direct contact with the family to apologize for the distress they are facing,” a spokesperson said, adding it was committed to remaining in contact.

The hospital added it is “reviewing its processes to ensure families can be supported as best as possible.”

The long delay has added more frustration and trauma to Negahban and her family, who have also filed a complaint with Lions Gate Hospital over the birth itself.

Negahban says she was sent home twice with morphine while in labour. After finally being admitted to give birth, she says a vacuum was used without her consent when Nathaniel became stuck.

Doctors then moved to performing a C-section, during which Negahban says the doctor admitted to applying too much pressure to Nathaniel’s head. The doctor also allegedly apologized for not performing a C-section earlier.

Vancouver Coastal Health has said it is investigating the claims laid out in the complaint.

“It’s just constantly adding more and more layers of heartbreak, and more and more layers of anger and frustration with the system,” Negahban said.

The family plans to hold a memorial for Nathaniel as soon as they bring his ashes home.

A GoFundMe page has been set up to assist the couple, including allowing them to take time off to recover and to pay for memorial and legal fees.

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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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