Inquest into Watson Lake hospital deaths postponed

An inquest into the deaths of Mary Johnny and Teresa Scheunert was scheduled for March. It’s now been postponed, because lawyers and doctors need more time to prepare.
Teresa Scheunert is shown here with her daughter Crystal Thomas. Scheunert's death at the Watson Lake hospital will be the subject of a coroner's inquest that's now been delayed. (Scheunert family)

The inquest into the deaths of Mary Johnny and Teresa Scheunert has been postponed.

Both women were patients at Watson Lake hospital.

The inquest was set for March 24 to April 4.

Yukon's chief coroner, Kirsten Macdonald says it may now take place in June because lawyers for the Yukon Hospital Corporation and the two doctors involved need more time to prepare.

The Schuenert family has not yet applied for standing at the inquest.

Crystal Thomas, Scheunert's daughter, says the cost of hiring a lawyer is considerable and very challenging.

"There is no help for us whatsoever,” Thomas says. “We have no legal representation, and we don't have the bottomless pockets to be able to do that."

Macdonald says she will not preside over the inquest, nor will a territorial judge.

Instead, Macdonald says someone will be drawn from the ranks of the territory's community coroners.

That doesn’t sit well with Scheunert’s sister, Wanda Zimmerman.

"I have grave concerns in regards to having a county-type coroner presiding over this inquest. I would much rather prefer a judge to be doing that role."

Macdonald refused to comment on whether community coroners have the necessary experience for an inquest of this magnitude.