Winnipeg girl's death after surgery deemed accidental

The death of a 10-year-old Winnipeg girl following minor surgery was accidental, according to Manitoba's chief medical examiner.

Chief medical examiner won't call inquest into death of Ashuza Halisi, 10

Death of Ashuza Halisi, 10, following minor surgery in March was accidental, according to Manitoba's chief medical examiner. 1:46

The death of a 10-year-old Winnipeg girl following minor surgery was accidental, according to Manitoba's chief medical examiner.

Ashuza Halisi died on March 13, less than two days after she underwent surgery at the Maples Surgical Centre to repair an umbilical hernia.

An autopsy has confirmed that her death was caused by an infection from a perforation in her small bowel, "most likely due to complications of recent umbilical hernia repair," chief medical examiner Dr. Thambirajah Balachandra said Thursday.

"We saw the hole, we saw the inflammation, which is the result of the hole, [and] the bowel contents leaking into the abdominal cavity. So our inference is that this is a complication of the surgery," he told reporters.

The manner of the girl's death has been ruled as accidental, a "therapeutic complication." Balachandra said he will not call an inquest into Ashuza's death.

According to her family, doctors said the surgical procedure Ashuza had on March 11 was simple and she could go home shortly afterwards.

Upon returning home that evening, Ashuza began experiencing extreme abdominal pain and vomiting. She was rushed to Children's Hospital, where she died early in the morning of March 13.

Ashuza's funeral took place on March 19.

Family wants apology

Members of the Halisi family told CBC News they accept Balachandra's findings, but they have not received an apology from health officials or from the surgeon who performed the procedure.

Ashuza's parents have said their Christian faith, along with the support of their family, friends and the public, have helped them cope with their daughter's death.

Ashuza Halisi, 10, had surgery done on March 11 to repair an umbilical hernia. She died of complications from the surgery on March 13. (Family photo)

But more than anything, they want to prevent this type of incident from happening to anyone else. They are seeking a formal apology from the surgeon and the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority.

"The family would like to hear more — in a formal way, an apology, an admission that this death could have not been possible without the surgery," said Deo Namwira, Ashuza's cousin.

The WRHA says it is asking a pediatric surgeon from outside Manitoba to examine its review of Ashuza's death and make recommendations if necessary.

"We know this has been a very trying time for the Halisi family. We are working with Maples Clinic to see what improvements can be made as a result of this case," Dr. Brock Wright, the WHRA's chief medical officer, said in a statement.

Wright said the health authority is already reviewing the patient discharge instructions it gives to families following day surgery procedures.

Health officials have also started making follow-up calls to patients' families within 24 hours, rather than 48 hours, after the operations.

The WRHA has not indicated if there will be any repercussions for the surgeon involved in Ashuza's case.