Man with knife in back for 3 years suing hospital, doctors

A Northwest Territories man who had an eight-centimetre knife in his back for three years after a stabbing is now suing the Stanton Territorial Hospital, the Sahtu Health Authority and a team of doctors for negligence.

Billy McNeely says he had severe back pain for years after 2010 stabbing in Fort Good Hope, N.W.T.

Billy McNeely said he was always setting off metal detectors, and that he had a burning sensation in his upper back, during the three years when he had an eight-centimetre knife lodged in his back following a stabbing. (CBC)

A Northwest Territories man who had an eight-centimetre knife in his back for three years after a stabbing is now suing the Stanton Territorial Hospital, the Sahtu Health Authority and a team of doctors for negligence.

Billy John McNeely was stabbed repeatedly in the back, neck and shoulder in Fort Good Hope, N.W.T., in 2010.

In 2013, after several trips to the hospital for back pain, it was discovered the knife blade from the stabbing was still in McNeely's back.

He is asking for more than $110,000 in damages for loss of income and quality of life.

None of the allegations has been proven in court.

8 visits to hospital, health centre

In court documents, McNeely says he went to the Fort Good Hope Health Centre after being stabbed repeatedly on April 30, 2010. His wounds were cleaned and stitched up. He says he was then sent home.

According to McNeely, he returned to the health centre later that night complaining of extreme pain and excessive bleeding from the stitched wound in his back, and was told to return to the centre at a later date.

Over the following two weeks, he says, he went back to the health centre three different times and was prescribed medication.

Three months later, while in Yellowknife, McNeely says he went to Stanton Territorial Hospital complaining of extreme pain around his back wound. He says he was referred to the hospital's physiotherapy department and underwent treatment for muscle injuries.

In 2012, he returned to the hospital, once again for back pain. He was prescribed medication and sent home.

In March 2013, McNeely felt the pointed edge of something under his skin while rubbing his back. He went to the hospital and it was discovered that the eight-centimetre blade was still in his back. It was removed shortly thereafter.

McNeely says both the Sahtu Health Authority and the Stanton Territorial Health Authority failed to employ competent doctors and nurses. He says both authorities and some of their medical staff were negligent for not finding the blade in his back when he first arrived at the Fort Good Hope Health Centre and for his subsequent visits to the hospital.

Damages 'exaggerated,' doctors say

In their statement of defence, the doctors who treated McNeely say they aren't responsible for what happened.

The first doctor involved in the case, Dr. Peter Boronowski, says that on the night McNeely was stabbed, he wasn't even in Fort Good Hope. He says he was working at the hospital in Inuvik and was phoned by the nurse in Fort Good Hope asking for advice.

He says he never physically assessed McNeely, and advised the nurse on how to treat him based on what he was told, and suggested a prescription for Tylenol 3 for pain.

Another physician, Dr. Charles MacNeil, argues the same point. He says he was telephoned by the nurse a few days after the stabbing for advice, and approved a prescription for oral antibiotics.

The two doctors McNeely saw in Yellowknife, Dr. Margaret Anne Woodside and Dr. Luella Smith, say when they examined him in July 2010 and February 2012, respectively, the wound had healed and that he had good range of motion in his arm.

The physicians argue McNeely received "competent medical care which met, or exceeded, the standard of care required of reasonably competent physicians in the circumstances."

They also say McNeely's claim of damages is "excessive" and "exaggerated."

Neither health authority has submitted its statement of defence.

No date has been set for a court hearing. 

About the Author

Hilary Bird


Hilary Bird is a reporter with CBC North in Yellowknife. She has been reporting on Indigenous issues and politics for almost a decade and has won several national and international awards for her work. Hilary can be reached at


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