The family of Brian Sinclair, an aboriginal man found dead after spending 34 hours in an emergency department, has filed a lawsuit against several medical staff, the regional health authority and the Manitoba government for $1.6 million.
The statement of claim, filed Wednesday in the Court of Queen's Bench, lists 18 defendants, including the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority and its director of clinical care Brock Wright.
It also lists the government and 15 individuals, most of whom are named other than two who are only referred to as Jane Doe and John Doe.
"The kind of treatment that Brian Sinclair received at the HSC [Health Sciences Centre] was cruel and discriminatory," the claim states.
"The medical institutions and professionals that Brian Sinclair relied on for care failed in their duty to provide him with proper and timely care."
Sinclair, a 45-year-old double amputee with a speech problem, was found dead in his wheelchair in the HSC's emergency department waiting room in September 2008.
'The kind of treatment that Brian Sinclair received at the HSC [Health Sciences Centre] was cruel and discriminatory.'—Statement of claim
An autopsy determined he died of a blood infection brought on by complications from a bladder infection caused by a blocked catheter. He hadn't been able to urinate for 24 hours and his bladder was full.
Sinclair's death could have been prevented if the blood infection had been treated, Manitoba's chief medical examiner, Dr. Thambirajah Balachandra, said within days of the death. Balachandra announced in February 2009 that an inquest would be held but that has not yet occurred.
"For 34 hours, hospital staff callously, recklessly or negligently ignored Brian Sinclair, even as he sat in the hospital waiting room in distress, vomiting, and dying," the claims states.
"They left him to suffer in agony, and gave him no care, treatment, assessment, attention, or necessaries of life. As a result, he died."
Toronto lawyer Vilko Zbogar, who represents Sinclair's family, said a lawsuit is against those people who were "involved in either ignoring Brian Sinclair to death or involved in the misstatements about the case after the fact."
The lawsuit claims the health officials publicized incorrect information as part of a "media campaign to deflect responsibility for Brian Sinclair's death away from the WRHA."
Brock Wright and others named in the lawsuit told the media that Sinclair did not attend to the triage desk at the emergency room to seek help, "implying that Brian Sinclair was in some way responsible for his own suffering," the claim states.
Zbogar said there's still no agreement on fees for the family's legal team and no decision on whether police will launch a criminal investigation into the death. He said those uncertainties are delaying the inquest.
"One of the objectives of the lawsuit is to do what so far no other process is doing, which is finding answers about how such a terrible thing could have possibly have happened in a hospital in Canada," said Zbogar.
No statements of defence have been filed.