A report released by the Northwest Territories’ chief coroner last week found Arlene Carmichael, 47, had nine different prescription drugs in her system when she died from an accidental overdose.
The Aklavik woman was found dead in her home by her son in December, 2012.
Chief coroner Cathy Menard says Carmichael’s death was part of a growing problem in the territory.
“From 2009 to 2012, we had 17 overdose cases from prescription medications and over-the-counter medications; some of them are a combination of both,” Menard says.
Carmichael had a history of numerous health problems.
The report says Carmichael would regularly ask for narcotic and sedative medications.
Menard says the quality of care Carmichael received was excellent.
But, she says, physicians in the N.W.T., like other doctors across the country, are facing a growing problem.
“It appeared that they lacked training and expertise in the management of prescribing opioids,” she says.
Menard's report includes seven recommendations to the government, such as calling for a better monitoring system for patients being prescribed medication.
“We have legislation that’s actually before the legislature this session,” says Debbie DeLancey, the territory’s the deputy minister of health, referring to the Health Information Act.
DeLancey says that act is “kind of the final piece of the puzzle” and that if it’s passed, the government hopes to move towards a more formal monitoring system.
But Delancey says that could take up to a year.