Told by his grandmother, Anna
“Losing a loved one has changed our lives forever.
My daughter delivered a baby boy on Friday, November 30, 2012. Vito Noah was our first grandchild. He was the most precious gift we could ever receive.
Upon delivery, the specialist and pediatrician told us that we had a healthy baby boy. Vito Noah did appear healthy in every way except for the heavy mucus he was spitting up that made it difficult for him to breastfeed. We brought our concerns to the nurses and were reassured that this experience was normal for babies born via caesarean section (C-section). We later learned that proper protocol for babies delivered via C-section is to carefully suction their mouths to ensure that they do not retain excess mucus, an issue common to C-section deliveries.
The day after Vito Noah’s birth, the pediatrician told us that Vito Noah’s records looked good and that we were free to take him home. We ended up deciding to stay a little longer as my daughter was still recovering from her C-section. That decision ended up being for the best as my daughter was having problems settling Vito Noah down that evening. Yet again, we called for help from the nurse and were once more reassured that everything was normal.
Around 1:00 am, Vito Noah was still not settling down. The nurses came in, weighed him, and did some tests to find that his temperature was low and that his skin colour was quite red. We later learned that the proper response to this situation, particularly in light of Vito Noah’s excessive mucus production and red complexion – which can signal a fever, choking, or infection – would have been to inform a doctor and place Vito Noah in an incubator to maintain the physical environment appropriate for a newborn. However, instead of following protocol, the nurse decided to wrap Vito Noah in a hot towel. At 2:30 am, the nurse returned to find that Vito Noah’s temperature had improved, but that he was experiencing a sudden episode of pallor. Vito Noah seemed to spontaneously improve from this episode within a short time period.
At 6:00 am, when my daughter picked up Vito Noah to feed him, she knew immediately that something was wrong. She ran to the nurses’ station with Vito Noah, where a code blue was declared. Vito Noah was pulseless for 17 minutes while the medical staff worked to resuscitate him. This extended deprivation of oxygen due to Vito Noah’s cardiac arrest caused him to suffer a hypoxic brain injury. My infant grandson’s experience must have been horrible. A painful, terrifying inability to breathe that eventually led to his suffocation.
Vito Noah was put on life support for the next three days. The doctor was shocked to find Vito Noah on life support after the weekend. Shortly after the doctor left, the head nurse came in to see me and tried to convince me that the nurses did not do anything wrong. I told her to leave and that it was not the time for her to be so defensive.
On December 5, 2012, Vito Noah was removed from life support. Five days earlier my daughter and I had been the happiest of our lives. Now, we were the most devastated.
There were a lot of things that didn’t make sense about Vito Noah’s death. It’s not normal for a healthy baby born of a healthy pregnancy to pass away mere days after his birth while still in the hospital. The Coroner’s Office became involved with the situation while Vito Noah was still on life support. Their final report stated that Vito Noah’s cause of death was undetermined. There was no mention of the nurse and the failure to adhere to proper protocol. Instead, the report stated that Vito Noah’s cardiac arrest and hypoxic brain injury led to his death, but that they could not determine what had caused Vito Noah’s initial cardiac arrest event.
Furthermore, the Coroner’s Report did not adhere to policy set in 2012, suggesting that infant deaths deemed “undetermined” should be associated with the inconclusivity of SIDS deaths and other infant syndromes. Instead, the Report implied that my grandson’s cardiac or pulmonary conditions caused his death without addressing whether it was possible that Vito Noah’s issues arose because of the mucus retention that could have resulted from his C-section delivery. Additionally, the Report used many pointed statements to lay blame at my daughter’s feet. My daughter was on necessary and life-saving medication for Multiple Sclerosis that has not been determinatively shown to negatively impact pregnancies or breastfeeding practices, yet the Coroner’s Report hinted that her medications may have contributed to Vito Noah’s death.
This report exacerbated our devastation. We needed answers, but we weren’t getting them. Even more crucially, we needed justice. But we weren’t getting that either. We had no way of ensuring that this same mistake never happened to another baby.
I called every law firm in the phone book and got the same answer from all of them: Vito Noah’s life had no value under British Columbia’s wrongful death laws. This reality meant that there were no available damages and that there was nothing that they could do to help us. Vito Noah, our beautiful baby of five days, was considered worthless under the law because he did not have an income and dependents. This criteria has denied our family and many families in BC the right to justice and accountability.
No family should ever have to go through this. Change is needed in our province. Had this happened in any Canadian province other than BC, someone would have been held accountable for the negligence my grandson experienced at the hospital.
As we write this story, it’s been over 9 years and we still feel the acute pain of Vito Noah’s passing. That pain is made even worse by the lack of closure we have received. Our family will never be the same again.”
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, Murray Rankin, 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 Rankin receives feedback from the regional ‘Members of the Legislative Assembly’ (MLAs) and follows orders from the Premier, David Eby (the former Attorney General who is also very familiar with this issue).
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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