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Indigenous woman files lawsuit against Northern Health citing medical negligence in son’s death

Naomi Bracken’s lawsuit is the second one filed against Northern Health’s Kitimat General Hospital this year
Naomi Bracken, mother of 39-year-old Joshua Benson who died in August last year, has filed a lawsuit against Northern Health accusing them of medical negligence at Kitimat General Hospital. ( Black Press file photo)

Naomi Bracken, an Indigenous woman from northwest B.C., is taking the Northern Health Authority to court, accusing it of medical negligence in the death of her 39-year-old son Joshua Benson on Aug. 31, 2020.

Bracken’s lawsuit – filed June 11 at the Terrace Supreme Court registry – comes four months after reaching out to provincial health minister Adrian Dix to address her grievance with the Kitimat General Hospital.

In her statement of claim, Bracken accuses Northern Health of failing to treat Benson appropriately after he went to the hospital complaining of chest pain. He died within 50 minutes of being discharged and after spending over seven hours in the hospital.

“In addition, the defendant’s standard of care fell below the standards expected of a doctor in the province of British Columbia,” it further read.

Bracken told Black Press Media, “As far as I could gather, my son died because of his colour, because he was native” .

“They (hospital) didn’t give him the care that he should have been given and I want this racism stuff to stop, ” said Bracken who has hired Penticton lawyer Michael Patterson to represent her.

The lawsuit however, does not mention any instance of race-based medical negligence.

Northern Health has 21 days to respond from the date the case was filed. The health authority has declined to comment.

According to a timeline presented in the claim, Benson arrived at Kitimat General at 2:39 p.m. on Aug. 31, 2020 complaining of severe chest pain that started at 2:05 p.m. He was at the hospital for more than seven hours and was treated with different painkillers like Aspirin, a Nitroglycerin spray and morphine sulfate.

Upon examination, his blood pressure was found to be elevated at 175/101, heart beat (sinus rhythm) at 59/ min. Electrocardiogram test showed a first degree heart block (AV block) and a complete right branch block (CRBB) and non-specific inferolateral STT abnormalities.

He was administered painkillers morphine sulphate and Toradol for his chest pain between 4:40 p.m. and 6:15 p.m.

According to the statement of claim, Benson reported that his pain was resolved at 8 p.m. and was discharged from the hospital at 10:15 p.m. despite his blood pressure still being elevated.

The statement also claims that Benson was administered a dose of the blood pressure medication Ramiprill at 10 p.m. before being discharged. He was told to see his family doctor in the morning or to get his blood pressure checked the next morning in the ER.

The statement indicates Benson had a cardiopulmonary arrest at 11:05 p.m. while walking up a hill and collapsed, clutching his chest. A bystander started CPR and called 911. He was brought back to the hospital and pronounced dead at 11:54 p.m.

Benson’s cause of death – as stated in the lawsuit – was due to aortic dissection/rupture or a stroke.

In the lawsuit, Northern Health is accused of failure to admit Benson overnight to control his blood pressure/hypertension and determine the cause of his severe chest pain. The hospital is also accused of failure to carry out other procedures (CAT scan, ischemic evaluations, stress tests) to rule out an aortic dissection “which is a highly lethal condition associated with severe blood pressure.”

It further accuses hospital staff of using painkillers to relieve the pain rather than investigating and resolving the “underlying problem.”

“The defendants failed to evaluated properly and diagnose the patient’s presenting symptoms in a timely manner,” read the statement.

Bracken is seeking damages from Northern Health for emotional shock, loss of future economic and emotional support, funeral expenses, aggravated and punitive damages as well as legal costs among others.

Bracken, a Gitxsan who resides in Terrace, had written to Dix in February after a review was launched into Kitimat General Hospital following allegations of racism in January by the family of Haisla woman, Sarah Morrison, who claimed that she was turned away in the while in labour and asked to head to Terrace’s Mills Memorial Hospital, 60 kilometers away.

READ MORE: Kitimat General Hospital under fire for second allegation of racism ending in death

In Bracken’s letter to Dix, she alleged “racism killed” her son and asked the minister to look into his medical file too while reviewing files at Kitimat General Hospital.

The B.C. Ministry of Health had confirmed on Feb. 5 that it “received the letter and is looking into the situation.” However, Bracken said that she had not received any response.

Bracken’s lawsuit is the second one this year –following Morrison’s– against Northern Health’s Kitimat General Hospital.

Both Bracken and Morrison are being represented by the same lawyer,Patterson.