Watson Lake hospital held wake without consent: family

Teresa Scheunert's family say they're shocked by the way they say their mother's body was treated at the Watson Lake hospital.

Teresa Scheunert died from being given a toxic mix of drugs

CBC's Nancy Thomson reports 2:48

Teresa Scheunert's family say they're shocked by the way they say their mother's body was treated at the Watson Lake hospital. 

Scheunert died in June 2012 from a toxic mix of drugs, administered at the hospital on doctors' orders.

A coroner's inquest will be held into Scheunert's death and the death of Mary Johnny next March.

But Scheunert's family wants some answers now from the Yukon Hospital Corporation about what happened with their mother's body — something an inquest won't address.

I found that was crossing the line. I felt they shouldn't have been touching my mother at all. Very upsetting.- Chandra Burchell, daughter of Teresa Scheunert

Before she was admitted as a patient, Scheunert was a nurse at the Watson Lake hospital.  

Scheunert's daughters live in Alberta and travelled to Yukon after their mothers' death.

Chandra Burchell says when she and her sister, Crystal Thomas, arrived in Watson Lake, the nurses — Scheunert's former co-workers — told the family they had dressed the body.  

"A couple of nurses from the hospital came over to offer their condolences but then they also explained to us that they had taken the time to do my mom's hair, makeup, dress her nicely, but I found that was crossing the line. I felt like they shouldn't have been touching my mother at all. Very upsetting," says Burchell.  

The other sister, Thomas, wonders about the operational standards at the Watson Lake hospital. 

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 in June. (Scheunert family)

"It just seems odd that somebody would go, before a coroner had a chance to do an investigation, and we're asking for an autopsy, for somebody to go and do her up pretty. I understand that she was a friend to them but to spend hours alone with a body, without us knowing, it bothered us."

Burchell says they had not given permission to anyone to touch their mother's body.

"We weren't asked. It was unsettling. Kinda disturbing," she says.

Burchell says the nurses also told the family they had a wake with Scheunert's body present. 

"And let the staff at the hospital apparently say their goodbyes to her, which I understand, but I don't understand why they were in the morgue with her alone especially when we weren't informed. I find that very unsettling. I mean, we haven't even done that. So I think that was something that was taken away from us," she said.    

Scheunert's house ransacked

As a nurse at the Watson Lake hospital, Scheunert lived in a house owned by the Yukon Hospital Corporation.
Crystal Thomas says after her mother died, a nurse at the hospital assured the family Scheunert's belongings would be safe.

 "We were told that a nurse in town would have a key and that she would meet us so that we could get in the house," she said.

But Chandra Burchell says they were horrified by what they found.

"We arrived at  her house to find her front and back doors swinging in the wind. Her house had been totally ransacked and turned upside down. Things were a mess. I couldn't believe it. We felt frightened to even enter, like, could somebody be inside? That's what we found when we arrived at my Mom's government housing."

In the end, the family says they are not seeking vengeance. 

Hopefully something like this will never, ever happen to anybody else again.- Wanda Zimmerman, sister of Teresa Scheunert 

Scheunert's sister, Wanda Zimmerman, says they just want some answers.

"We are average people living in an unusual circumstance right now. And we would like help in order to understand what really has happened to my sister, their mother. Hopefully something like this will never, ever happen to anybody else again."

The Yukon Hospital Corporation has declined an interview with the CBC on the family's concerns.


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