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Theresa’s Story

Told by her daughter, Beatrice (in collaboration with her siblings, Crystal and Gordon)

“My mother was a loving, vibrant, family-oriented and social person. She was always the first to reach out to newcomers to ensure that they felt included. Even today, folks in our Goan (from Goa, India) community come up to my family to tell us how they remember our mom’s smile, her jokes, her thoughtfulness, her matching accessories, and just her overall joy-filled disposition.

On May 10, 2006, she had a routine laser cataract surgery. At the post-surgery appointment on Thursday, May 18, the doctor said that the surgery had been a success, and that her eye was healing nicely. However, by Sunday May 21, her eye became irritated, sore and swollen. When she woke up the next day, it was much worse – she felt more pain, and when she touched that side of her face, she described the sensation as raw, like an open wound.

She went to the emergency department, and was told to go to the eye clinic down the street, where they could assess her eye thoroughly. It was a statutory holiday, so there was only a resident doctor (RD) present, and an on-call specialist for emergencies. The specialist decided to do a procedure on her eye, and instructed the RD to freeze it with Lidocaine. The Lidocaine had to be ordered through the hospital, and it would be an hour before it was ready for pick-up, so the RD told my mom to go and eat something in the meantime. When she returned to the clinic, the RD froze my mom’s eye in preparation for the procedure. She then left the room to inform the specialist that the freezing solution had been administered.

While the RD was out of the room, my mother stopped breathing. To this day, I still don’t know exactly what happened after that dose was administered.

About 10 minutes passed before the RD returned to the room, where she found my mom unconscious, unresponsive, and not breathing. She began CPR, and frantically waved my brother into the room to assist in the attempts to revive my mother. When my brother entered the room, he noticed that my mom had vomited. My family and I are convinced, even today, that our mother would not have aspirated had she not been told by the RD to go and eat prior to the procedure. Eventually, the paramedics arrived on the scene. When they put the breathing apparatus down her throat, she aspirated again. It was all downhill from there.

The next 28 days at the hospital were horrific and traumatic for my family. Our dear mother remained in a coma the entire time and later was on life support. She never regained consciousness. We were stripped of the opportunity to even say goodbye.

Sometime after midnight on June 19, my brother, sister, and I were called to the hospital. We were told that there was internal bleeding in our mother’s abdominal cavity, and that an exploratory surgery would be necessary. Hours later, the head nurse informed us that they were struggling to find a pulse in her foot; without circulation, they would likely have to amputate it. At that point, we made that dreaded decision, which haunts us to this day – to let her go.

After the decision was made to remove our mom from life support, our dear dad, who had been diagnosed with dementia and was already in a nursing home at the time, was brought to her side. We strongly believe that he understood the severity of the situation – the fact that he was soon to lose his soulmate. Just two days after our mom’s death, our dad suffered a massive stroke, and he also passed away in two short weeks, on July 5, 2006. The devastation my siblings and I felt was inconsolable.

My mom was a healthy 71-year-old woman who was often mistaken to be in her fifties because she was so active, full of life, and young-looking. Ask yourself: how does a person with an eye infection after an ordinary cataract surgery end up in a coma and, worse yet, dead?

We were left with so many questions, the answers to which we will never know.

Reeling from the loss of our mother and father, my two siblings and I needed answers and perhaps justice in order to heal. We tried to enlist help from the College of Physicians and Surgeons, but to no avail. After seeing a couple of lawyers, we learned that because our mother did not earn an income and had no dependents, her life was worthless in the eyes of the law. There was no way for us to pursue legal action for a possible wrongful death claim to get the answers we so desperately needed.

After my mom’s death, I became a member of the BC Wrongful Death Law Reform Society (BCWDLRS). Initially, it felt good to join forces with this very dedicated team of families because our goal seemed simple: raise public awareness so that people would see the injustice of the current wrongful death legislation, and pressure would build to ensure that the necessary changes would be made in our province. But thus far, the BC government has made no real strides to change these outdated laws, and has done nothing more than look the other way at the mention of this issue. In doing so, they have swept my mother’s death under the rug, stripping my family of all hope, leaving us to feel beaten and overwhelmed, only riddled with questions.

If doctors are not held accountable, and are fully protected by a law that essentially rewards their negligence, how can our healthcare system ever improve? Where is the incentive for policy change? If there is no effective law in place to help hold people accountable for their wrongdoings, how can we reduce the incidence of situations like ours, where mistakes, negligence and mistreatment lead to unnecessary wrongful deaths? The existing legislation desperately needs to be modernized, and this must be done swiftly, before more innocent lives are taken from us, leaving more families devastated and without hope.

As a family member devoted to this cause, sometimes I feel like screaming from the rooftops that my mother’s life mattered and had value! She shouldn’t be treated as worthless in the eyes of the law, while the insurance goliaths of this world benefit from her death. The family members of the BCWDLRS are connected by this common thread of injustice, and years after our loved ones have passed, we are sacrificing our time and energy to fight for what’s right, because we feel that no one else should ever have to experience this kind of unnecessary loss. Our only motivation is to continue to give our loved ones a voice in this world, and to uphold value for their lives with our love and honor, in their names.”

Media Coverage

The Province: Families Fight Wrongful Death Law

GlobeNewsWire/TLABC: Awareness Walk This Sunday, Father’s Day: In Memory of One Mom (Theresa Pereira)

Ici Radio-Canada: Des familles en deuil veulent être dédommagées après la perte injustifiée d’un être cher
English Translation: Ici Radio-Canada: Grieving families seek compensation after wrongful loss of loved one


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 Theresa Pereira 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.

Theresa Pereira, sadly, is one of these cases where the family is unable to find the truth about what happened to their loved one. 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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