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Erin’s Story

Told by her mother, Nona

“From the day my daughter Erin (my Bug) was born, she was a gift. I was initially told that I could not have children, so when I found out that I was pregnant, I hid the pregnancy from everyone. My family and friends only found out when Erin arrived on February 27th, 1990 at 10:58 am. She was so calm and so beautiful; she became my bug, my best friend, and my daughter.

Erin blessed everyone from every walk of life. No matter who you were, no matter where you came from, she would fight to the bitter end for you. She was so full of life, so very outgoing, and so beautiful.

There aren’t words that can even come close to describing the shock and pain of losing Erin. But, at the same time, there also aren’t words to adequately describe how amazing she was, and how incredibly she impacted so many lives.

The events leading up to Erin’s death are so painful to write about.

In the months prior, Erin went to the emergency room at Delta Hospital four or five times with excruciating headaches, and she was starting to develop alopecia. She said that she felt dizzy and nauseous; sometimes she would drink water and vomit. She was seen by two different doctors who told her that a shot of cortisone would cure it, that she just had a cold or the flu, and that her symptoms were just caused by stress. Each time, she left the clinic suffering and in tears. They turned her away without any testing, telling her to take Tylenol. When she went back, they would make fun of her, saying, “Here comes the hypochondriac!”

That horrible day on January 18th, 2012, she was once again admitted to the emergency room at Delta Hospital. When I arrived, I found my daughter in tears, saying to the nurse, “My head hurts so bad – I just want to go home.” I overheard the nurse tell her, “I’ve heard you say this all day”, and she just walked away, leaving my daughter in the hallway.

Erin was overlooked. Once again, she was sent home broken and in tears, told that she just had a sinus infection, as her young boyfriend and I literally carried her out of the hospital.

She was braindead the next morning.

Hours after she was sent home from the hospital, I found Erin passed out in her room, unresponsive. She went back to Delta Hospital in an ambulance. On January 19th, she was given the CT scan that should have been ordered months prior. The scan confirmed that she was braindead, and found a tumour that had hemorrhaged in her brain. She was sent to the Royal Columbian Hospital to be put on life support, and she died the next day.

Erin’s organs were donated. I received a letter from one recipient thanking Erin for the gift of sight. I received another letter telling me that both her kidneys and liver were donated, and that because of Erin, one recipient underwent a double lung transplant. From her stem cells, 64 people were saved. As her mom, it’s so hard to know that my beauty had to go, but she helped so many people while she was on earth, and beyond.

My sister – Erin’s Auntie, who was a huge part of her life – was working at a hospital in Vancouver at the time. She showed the pathology report to the head nurse in the OR, who spent a lot of time going through it. The nurse told us that there were so many things that were done incorrectly and incompletely, from start to finish. I was advised to report these to the head of Fraser Health, but doubted that anything would be done.

Later, I received a call from a Patient Care Quality Officer from Fraser Health. She wanted to meet with me to have me sign some papers saying that I was happy with the care that my daughter had received. I hung up.

Erin was sent home from the emergency room in excruciating pain numerous times. Delta never offered a CT scan, even though they had a brand new one. I desperately wanted these doctors to be held accountable for their oversight. I contacted several lawyers, stressing that I did not want money, I just wanted the doctors to be held accountable so that this would never happen again. I was told that nothing could be done; Erin’s life was worthless under the law. I was disgusted, and so afraid that these doctors would hurt someone else with their negligence.

My fears came true. The horrible, horrible truth is that the same thing happened to at least two other young people that I know of. Both of them had been released from the Delta Hospital without being offered a CT scan, and died hours later. One, just like Erin, had been to the emergency room with debilitating headaches several times before, and died of an undiagnosed brain tumour.

If the law only protects doctors and not patients, and ensures that doctors cannot be held accountable for their mistakes and their oversights, how can we possibly prevent this from happening again?”

Media Coverage

CTV News: Tests that may have saved patients’ lives not given at Delta Hospital: parents


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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Petition Your MLA Now

Unlike other Canadian provinces, BC has not made any significant amendments to its wrongful death legislation—ever. The current BC Family Compensation Act only values the lives of income-earners. This neglect must stop. Petitioning your local MLA, the Attorney General, and Premier with our automated tool can make a lasting difference to the lives of British Columbians for generations to come.

Dear Local MLA, Attorney General Niki Sharma, Premier David Eby, Minister of Health Adrian Dix, Minister of Public Safety & Solicitor General Mike Farnworth,

I am writing to you about the preventable death of 21-year-old Erin Gallagher and British Columbia’s woefully outdated wrongful death laws; which are still based on colonial era legislation from 1846.

BC’s current Family Compensation Act only takes into account the direct financial losses resulting from the wrongful death of a loved one. As a result, only the families of deceased breadwinners see the inside of a courtroom in cases of wrongful death.

Children, seniors, people with disabilities, or anyone who does not meet the discriminatory criteria of having both an income and dependents are classes of people whose lives are not valued or respected when they are killed in BC.

This is a human rights issue.

Investigations into the wrongful death of these classes of citizens most often do not occur because there is no ‘loss of earnings’ to cover civil trial costs.

Accordingly, families have been denied the ability to right the wrong and ensure that the same preventable actions which resulted in the wrongful death would not happen to another.

Unlike other provinces in Canada, which in most cases have modernized long ago, many of your constituents are considered “worthless” under the discriminatory law in British Columbia.

Erin Gallagher, sadly, is one of these cases where no accountability can be brought against wrongdoers who failed in their duty of care. Her story can be read here –

The BC Wrongful Death Law Reform Society is comprised of families who have been fighting for over two decades to see our laws modernized. They have drafted legislation that can solve this problem now.

These families, based on each individual personal experience of loss, have demanded that the legislation include the following tenets:

#1 The value of human life must not be based merely on whether the wrongfully killed was a breadwinner with dependants. There must be a legal recognition for the value of each life and the loss of love, guidance, care, companionship, and affection wrongfully taken from surviving family members.

#2 The value of human life must not be arbitrarily capped by legislation. Damages for the loss of life must be assessed individually by constitutionally independent superior courts, in recognition of the distinct relationship that existed between each of the surviving family members and the wrongfully killed loved one.

#3 All forms of non-pecuniary damages, including aggravated and punitive damages must be available under the legislation to be awarded in appropriate cases. Financial penalty assessed by a civil court when a wrongdoer maliciously, or recklessly kills another person is essential when criminal prosecution is not pursued or fails. General deterrence of future wrongdoing is an important objective.

#4 If an individual is not initially killed by a wrongful act, but later dies before the conclusion of litigation, this should not be a windfall for the wrongdoer. There should not be a perverse incentive for the wrongdoer to delay, or prolong litigation. Damages relating to conscious pain, suffering, and disability during the period between the wrong and the decedent’s death, including damages for loss of expectation of life, pain and suffering, physical disfigurement, or loss of amenities must remain available under the legislation.

#5 Families deserve the right to have their day in court with the ability to obtain professional legal representation on a contingency basis. No other piece of legislation in the province should bar the pursuit of an at-fault wrongful death claim against a negligent party. The contingency fee system does not discriminate socioeconomically, and it ensures the family can obtain the best representation necessary to obtain truth, justice, and accountability against a wrongdoer, no matter how big and powerful that wrongdoer might be. Families also deserve the right to have the case decided by a jury of their peers. This fundamental aspect of our democracy must be preserved.

What will you do to create a fair and adequate wrongful death law in BC?

Yours Truly,

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cc: Liberal Leader Kevin Falcon, Liberal Critic for Attorney General Mike de Jong, Liberal Critic for Public Safety & Solicitor General Mike Morris, BC Greens Leader Sonia Furstenau

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