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Nathaniel’s Story

Told by his mother, Emilie

“Shock. Anger. Confusion. How could this happen? How could my baby boy be gone? How could he be gone, when I did everything I could to protect him? My boy, my son.

I did everything right; I took my vitamins, I tried to eat well, and I tried not to sleep on my back. I caressed my belly and spoke to him with excitement as I awaited his arrival.

Why did I trust the hospital? Why did I trust the doctor? Why did I believe the medical team, when they told me that everything would be all right?

Our son, Nathaniel Achilles Nicolas Addison, died from a traumatic delivery. He was a perfectly healthy baby boy throughout my pregnancy. My water broke at 37 weeks on February 2nd, 2022, at 4 a.m. After calling the hospital, I proceeded to go there, as per their instructions. However, due to my lack of dilation, they gave me some morphine and sent me home. I came back a few hours later with stronger contractions, and again was given morphine and sent home. The third time I went, they ended up keeping me in the hospital, as I insisted on staying.

Due to a lack of staff, they waited 36 hours to induce me. I kept repeating that I was in fear of an infection, which could yield serious side effects, as I had previously been a cervical cancer patient. Fertility doctors had informed me that due to scarring from cancer-related surgeries, I would most likely be unable to conceive.

After 36 hours, which was past the recommended 24 hours, a doctor finally came to see me. She insisted that I have a natural childbirth, although I told her that I was completely fine with a C-section. I’ve had several previous surgeries, and I wanted only what was best for my son. At the doctor’s insistence, I attempted to push. However, my son couldn’t get past my pubic bone. My bone structure was too small to give birth vaginally, but for three and a half hours, the doctor kept telling me to push. Again, I told her multiple times during the delivery that I was fine with having a C-section. She was determined to get him out naturally, even though it wasn’t physically possible. I also developed a fever while pushing.

The doctor told me that she would vacuum him out, using a Ventouse (vacuum cup). I didn’t know what that meant. In the room, the doctor did not acquire informed consent, this being permission granted in the knowledge of the possible consequences, which is given by a patient to a doctor for treatment with full knowledge of the possible risks and benefits. She simply stated that she could get him out that way. So we trusted her, as any reasonable patient would. The room was also full of nurses who witnessed this interaction. The doctor attempted to vacuum him out for 25 minutes, which was past the 20-minute allowance for vacuuming. Three times, during this 25-minute interval, the vacuum cup made a noise, popped off my baby’s head, and turned itself off.

The hospital staff, including the doctor and nurses, waited four and a half hours, while having me push, before they performed an emergency C-section. My baby was so stuck in my pubic bone from the vacuuming procedure that the doctor applied a lot of pressure—too much pressure—to his head to get him out, she admitted to me later. After the delivery, the doctor approached me, telling me that the C-section should have been done earlier and that it was her fault. She said this in front of one of the nurses at Lions Gate Hospital. She repeated that she was so sorry and that this was all her fault. I even told her that I was worried that I may have pushed him out too hard. Again, she said that she was to blame. She gave me her personal phone number. Looking back, this made me think that she felt guilty over this course of action.

At 8:45 p.m., the medical team was finally able to get my son out of me, but he didn’t cry. He was put on a respirator by the nurses, and they told my partner that Nathaniel was breathing on his own. He was taken to the NICU, as they felt he needed some assistance with his breathing. They focused only on his breathing, which was unexpected, considering all newborns are supposed to be given a full examination immediately after birth. None of the hospital staff noticed the skull bleed until a few hours later. They came into my room, telling us that they hadn’t noticed the bleeding for a few hours, but now they had. They did not have the right equipment to see what was wrong. He wasn’t taken to Children’s Hospital until 1:00 a.m. via ambulance.

Nathaniel was born at about 8:45 p.m. and wasn’t sent to Children’s Hospital until 1:00 a.m. He died in my arms at 5:00 a.m. His head was so swollen from the skull bleed that the hat they put on him barely fit.

A paediatrician at Children’s Hospital informed me that Nathaniel had died from multiple-organ failure due to birth asphyxia and a skull bleed. Birth Asphyxia is defined as a lack of oxygen and blood flow to the brain before, during, or right after birth. From what I’ve been told, the skull bleed occurred due to the suction from the vacuum cup and the doctor’s pressure on his skull when she was attempting to take him out. She apologized for this and took responsibility for it multiple times. Again, I did not provide informed consent to the vacuuming and was not advised of the known risks inherent in that procedure.

The paediatrician told me this was an extremely traumatic delivery and that he had never seen a situation like this before. He also stated my baby had a heart attack due to the stress of the delivery. He also believes that the delivery doctor may have fractured Nathaniel’s skull from the pressure being applied. My son, Nathaniel, died due to a failure to provide proper medical care and attention and the absence of full disclosure of relevant information with the known risks and benefits. Taking on such a procedure and failing to provide proficient medical care from the delivery doctor amounts to negligence on the part of the medical staff.

A few days later, one of the paramedics who provided the hospital transfer from Lions Gate Hospital to Children’s Hospital recognized my partner while he was out in the community. He apologized profusely for the situation and said that Lions Gate Hospital should never have waited that long to call them. He stated that had they called earlier, my son would still possibly be alive. He corroborated that it was not a busy night for ambulance calls and they would have been there earlier had they been called on time.

After the traumatic pregnancy, I was also diagnosed with endometritis, which is an inflammatory condition of the lining of the uterus that is usually caused by an infection. I also acquired a kidney infection due to the prolonged 40 hours of labour, followed by the C-section. The C-section caused even more infection. I was not prescribed antibiotics when I was released from the hospital. I have been told by several doctors that this is highly unusual, considering the length of the labour and the fever that developed from the pushing, as well as from the emergency C-section. Due to these complications, I was in and out of the hospital for three weeks after delivery, adding to our trauma and stress. Overall, I was thereafter put under four different antibiotics, both oral and IV.

This experience has made me question whether the Hippocratic Oath has long been forgotten in our medical community, this being an oath that a physician makes in performing their medical duties which pledges to prescribe only beneficial treatments, according to their best abilities and judgment, and to refrain from causing harm. We understand the challenges faced by medical staff in these unprecedented COVID times. We understand the staff shortages and the long hours. However, these issues were around long before COVID happened. It should not serve as an excuse for our loss. When one wants to become a nurse or a doctor, working under stress and pressure is implied and expected. If one is unable to perform their obligations in a reasonably competent manner, they should not be working in that field performing such duties.

The doctor in charge, insisted that I have a natural childbirth and ignored all the red flags during my labour. She did not provide us with a list of the known risks and consequences. She did not acquire informed consent in undertaking the Ventouse vacuum cup procedure. One wonders if the lack of competent judgment exercised were due to medical employees being overworked or simply poorly trained.

I had remembered a year before, when I learned of another case of medical negligence at Lions Gate Hospital involving the wrongful death of Natasha Forry. When that story was published on the ‘In Their Name’ website I had both read the story and petitioned my MLA regarding the modernization of BC’s wrongful death laws.

I was shocked and sickened that just a year later, now my son had been wrongfully killed due to medical negligence at the same hospital. I came to realize the full measure of the impact of my son’s life being considered worthless under BC’s discriminatory wrongful death laws.

Currently in BC, the value of a human life is measured only by the deceased’s future lost income so long as they had dependents. These are known as economic damages, or “pecuniary damages”. Unlike other provinces, under BC’s wrongful death laws, “non-pecuniary”, or non-economic damages are excluded. This means that damages relating to loss of care, guidance, love, affection, and companionship are not valued in BC, as they are in other jurisdictions. These damages would allow us to pursue justice and hold the wrongful parties accountable so the same preventable medical errors do not happen to another family.

Despite my own previous advocacy and letter to my MLA which went ignored, now my baby has been a victim, and our family has been forever impacted.

How is British Columbia the last province to take steps towards innovation and basic human rights? We, as Canadians, pride ourselves on our socialized medical system. We should serve as an example to the world. Instead, we are provided with second-rate care in a first-world country. We trust our doctors and nurses to have our best interests at heart. We trust them to put their self-interests and egos aside and administer reasonably prudent and competent care. We trust them to bring our children into this world. However, if there is no financial deterrent mechanisms in place when someone is wrongfully killed, then there will never be any financial incentive to retrain medical staff to prevent these same medical errors in the future.

We now are looking to the volunteer families behind The BC Wrongful Death Law Reform Society to help bring this injustice to light and work towards bettering our medical system. The only way to make changes, in this case, is to allow for the law to change and give children, the elderly, and the disabled a voice. We should be permitted to hold those in charge accountable for their actions; otherwise, how do we move forward toward bettering this broken system? The doctors, nurses, and the hospital should not be given an automatic free pass when their actions lead to a tragic and avoidable wrongful death.

We expected to bring our son home, which we will never get to do, due to the negligent decisions taken by the hospital.

Rest in peace, my son, Nathaniel Achilles Nicolas Addison.”

Media Coverage

CTV News: ‘We are broken’: Young expecting parents speak out after tragic childbirth experience at B.C. hospital

CBC News: Death of couple’s ‘miracle’ baby after difficult delivery at B.C. hospital prompts review

Daily Hive News: “We’re broken”: Couple demands accountability after newborn dies following traumatic delivery

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

CTV News: Mothers for Justice Memorial Walk 2022

Global News: March to change B.C.’s wrongful death laws

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

Ici Radio-Canada: Une mère réclame justice après la mort de son bébé
English Translation: Ici Radio-Canada: A mother demands justice after the death of her baby


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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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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 one-day-old Nathaniel Addison 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.

Nathaniel Addison, sadly, is one of these cases where no accountability can be brought against the negligent parties who failed to provide appropriate care in the vital hours of his birth. His story can be read here – https://intheirname.ca/our-stories/nathaniel/

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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