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BC Wrongful Death Law Reform Society

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Vancouver

5 days ago

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Vancouver

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Mission

1 week ago

Laura’s Story

Told by her father, Robert, and her sister, Christine

 

Christine: Laura is my sister. She and I grew up with a lot of quirky hobbies. We were the best of friends.

Robert: She started getting headaches. So we took her to getting tests done, CT scans of her brain, and everything came back normal. I decided to have her blood checked.

Christine: I remember my dad on the phone. He sounded very, very upset. My dad hung up the phone and he said, ‘Laura, we need to go to the hospital.’

Robert: So I took her to the hospital, hoping that maybe the tests were wrong, and they came back more positive. They came back as AML, which is one of the worst leukemias you can have. Initially the doctors were always coming in, checking up, so I thought ‘great support’. That was all in the beginning. That all disappeared. The family doctor going on holidays without telling us, putting Laura in basically the hands of a—well she was an MD, but not fully fledge. She was training.

Christine: So instead of continually injecting a needle in her to draw out blood, they instead wanted to go with a procedure where they would attach something to her heart. And in that operation, they punctured her lung and, as a result, she developed pneumonia.

Robert: So, she had a hard time breathing but instead of stopping the protocol with chemotherapy drugs, they continued with the protocol as well as trying to treat her, the pneumonia that she had—and she just got worse. Her stomach was getting quite big, quite painful, and the doctors kept saying, ‘No, it will be okay. Everything is fine. Don’t worry.’ Anyway, the protocol did work, which was great, great news. You know, we felt relieved but unfortunately Laura was still so sick. She was so sick they took her down to emergency, and they said, ‘No, no, it will just be a short time. There, in emergency, she’ll have one-on-one care from a nurse.’

We got a call: You better come right away. We think your daughter is dying.

They phoned for Christine to come down. But, they had taken the life support equipment off of her before we even had a chance to say our goodbyes altogether. They came back to the room where we were at saying, ‘Your daughter has passed away. You can go see her now.’

I consulted the BC doctors’ association. They even said there was a lack of communication. Your daughter should have never been under the care of a doctor who is still in training. You should have had a regular doctor coming in all the time to see her, which Laura didn’t because her regular doctor was on holidays. Even with the chief doctor, we couldn’t get any proper answers. They kept saying their sorry, we’ll try to make sure communication is better improved in the hospitals.

Cleanliness was a key factor. The fact that her immune system was really low and the nurses would come in and did not wear a mask, even if they were suffering from a cold or a cough. They would still come in and cough over Laura.

So we went to the lawyer and they said basically, if your daughter dies, even if you win the case, which costs a lot of money, you would get very little compensation because, basically, children are worthless in the eyes of the law. Not only children, it’s elderly people, disabled people, they are all classed as the same. If you’re not a breadwinner, you’re worthless. This is our lousy laws in Canada based on English laws. And they don’t change it. And you say ‘why they don’t change it?’ Because the medical society and the insurance companies are so strong, they don’t want to change anything. They don’t want to have to put out hundreds of thousands of dollars. You know we’re not in it for the money. None of us are. We’re there for change. If there is a bad doctor out there, we want something done.

Christine: We knew that Laura wasn’t treated well. There was more that could have been done. And we didn’t want to see this happening to any other child, any other person. So, really we lost Laura but we wanted to protect others.


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 Attorney General of British Columbia, David Eby, is the Minister responsible for the ‘Family Compensation Act’ – the guiding piece of legislation that the civil courts must follow in cases of wrongful death. Minister Eby receives feedback from the regional ‘Members of the Legislative Assembly’ (MLAs) and follows orders from the Premier, John Horgan.

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 Murray Rankin, Premier John Horgan, Minister of Health Adrian Dix, Minister of Public Safety & Solicitor General Mike Farnworth,

I am writing to you about the preventable death of 15-year-old Laura White 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.

Laura White, 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 – https://intheirname.ca/our-stories/laura/

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,

Your Full Name
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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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