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2 Montreal families want new coroner’s inquiries over claims of racism and conflict of interest

Click to play video: 'Two Montreal families want new coroner’s inquiries over claims of racism and conflict of interest' Two Montreal families want new coroner’s inquiries over claims of racism and conflict of interest
WATCH: Two Montreal families are demanding new coroner's inquiries into the death of their loved ones because of growing concerns over racial profiling and a conflict of interest involving the coroner and one of the hospitals. As Global’s Elizabeth Zogalis reports, both cases are unrelated but both families are seeking the help of the Center for Research-Action on Race Relations – May 17, 2021

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect that the coroner in charge of the investigation into Candida Macarine’s death has recused herself from the case

Two Montreal families are demanding new coroner’s inquiries into the deaths of their loved ones because of growing concerns over racial profiling and a conflict of interest involving the coroner and one of the hospitals.

The family of 26-year-old Akeem Scott is asking for a new inquiry after his death in June of 2019. His family says he spent several hours in severe pain in the Jewish General Hospital’s emergency room without urgent medical care.

He eventually gave up and went to a friend’s house, where he later died.

The original coroner’s report found Scott’s death was preventable but the family believes there are too many discrepancies with how the incident played out.

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Read more: Health officials accept family’s demand as coroner to probe woman’s death in Montreal hospital

Scott’s mother, Marcia Samuels, says she’s left asking too many questions.

“Why is there no mention of the fact that at first the complaint commissioner of the CIUSSS Montreal Centre West said the video footage of the incident was no longer available?” she said.

“Then four months later the CIUSSS medical examiner gave contradictory information about the time my son left the hospital.”

The family is also left wondering if racial discrimination played a part.

“Was it because he was a Black man and was not taken seriously?” asked Samuels.

Click to play video: 'Family of woman who died at Lakeshore Hospital still looking for answers' Family of woman who died at Lakeshore Hospital still looking for answers
Family of woman who died at Lakeshore Hospital still looking for answers – Apr 22, 2021

Coroner steps aside in Macarine investigation

For the Macarine family, they are still left wondering what happened to their 86-year-old mother, Candida Macarine.

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The Filipina woman was admitted to the Lakeshore General Hospital on Feb. 26 with respiratory problems but was found dead on the hospital floor a day later.

One month after the coroner’s office confirmed it would investigate, the family still has no news.

They were also recently informed of what they say is a conflict of interest between the coroner and the hospital: the coroner is the former chief of legal services at the agency that manages the Lakeshore General.

“It’s obvious that this coroner should be replaced,” says Center for Research-Action on Race Relations executive director Fo Niemi.

“She should recuse herself and another more independent — at least in the perception of the family — another more independent coroner be appointed.”

In an email to Global News, a spokesperson for the Quebec Coroner’s office said it still had full confidence in the quality of coroner Karine Spénard’s work, as well as her integrity.

The office also said it didn’t believe Spénard had put herself in a conflict of interest by investigating Macarine’s death, having left the employ of the CIUSSS de l’Ouest-de-l’Île-de-Montréal several years ago.

“She has all the independence necessary to carry out this investigation,” said spokesperson Jake Lamotta Granato.

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Read more: Joyce Echaquan’s death highlights systemic racism in health care, experts say

However, Lamotta Granato said Spénard recused herself from the investigation after learning the family had lost trust.

“She asked that the investigation into the death be transferred to another coroner,” Lamotta Granato said. “The head coroner accepted the requested and a new coroner will be tasked with the file.”

In the case of Scott, the coroner said the family received the report into his death over a year ago.

“We still invite the family, if they wish, to share their concerns and questions with us in writing, by contacting Customer Service at the Coroner’s Office. We will get back to them as soon as possible after analyzing their request< Lamotta Granato said.

For his part, Niemi says it’s only fair the families are seeking more answers, given recent cases that raise questions about racial discrimination in Quebec’s health-care network.

“We would have to take other recourses in order to have the findings of the coroner’s report reviewed, either by the college of physicians or by the order of nurses.”

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