Nunavut coroner will hold inquest into Cape Dorset baby’s death

Date to be set later after logistical details worked out

By THOMAS ROHNER

Nunavut's chief coroner, Padma Suramala, announced that she has ordered an inquest, to be held in Cape Dorset, into the death of Makibi Timilak Akesuk, who died April 5, 2012. (FILE PHOTO)


Nunavut’s chief coroner, Padma Suramala, announced that she has ordered an inquest, to be held in Cape Dorset, into the death of Makibi Timilak Akesuk, who died April 5, 2012. (FILE PHOTO)

An inquest will be held into the circumstances surrounding the 2012 death of a three-month-old infant in Cape Dorset, Nunavut’s chief coroner, Padma Suramala, said Feb. 16,

“A specific date of the inquest will be determined once further logistics have been confirmed,” a news release from Suramala said.

That inquest will take place in Cape Dorset.

The parents of Makibi Timilak Akesuk, who died April 5, 2012, told Nunatsiaq News in June 2015 that the coroner should call an inquest because they feared their son died needlessly.

They said they were left confused and hurt by the coroner’s lack of communication with the family at the time of their first-born son’s death.

Luutaaq Qaumagiaq, Makibi’s father, told Nunatsiaq News from Cape Dorset Feb. 16 that the media attention surrounding their son’s death has been hard.

“We had to think about it for a while until we decided [an inquest] should go ahead. It’s hard seeing our son through the news, what we went through, it brings back memories,” Qaumagiaq said.

In April 2012, Suramala attributed Baby Makibi’s death to sudden infant death syndrome — or SIDS — often a catch-all term used after every known cause of death has been ruled out.

But a pathologist who performed an autopsy on Baby Makibi in the summer of 2012 determined the infant died of a treatable lung infection, known as cytomegalovirus, or CMV.

By October 2015, the pathologist later changed his conclusion of the cause of death to SIDS, a decision supported by two other pathologists, but the exact cause of death remains in confusion.

That has called into question the treatment Baby Makibi received leading up to his death.

According to Qaumagiaq and mother, Neevee Akesuk, the couple called the local health centre the night their baby died complaining that he was unwell.

The on-call nurse at the community health centre that night, Debbie McKeown, told the couple to bathe their infant and put him to bed, the couple said.

That’s contrary to two Government of Nunavut nursing policies which say that all infants presenting any symptoms must be assessed in-person at the clinic.

A few hours later, Baby Makibi was not breathing and couldn’t be resuscitated once transported to the health centre.

Given the confusion surrounding the cause of death, as well as lingering concerns among Nunavummiut in general and Cape Dorset residents about the quality of community health care, lawyer Katherine Peterson recommended in her external review report that an inquest be held if the family wants one.

Qaumagiaq and partner Akesuk said in July 2015 that Suramala should resign as Nunavut’s chief coroner because of her bungled handling of their son’s case.

And, although Qaumagiaq and Akesuk said they are scared to go through with an inquest, they said they believe the government is covering something up and that the public has the right to feel safe with their healthcare workers.

“We’re hoping that all the people will be safe and they’ll get the right treatment… we want government workers to do their job right, and we don’t want other people to go through what we went through,” Qaumagiaq said.

Justice Minister Paul Okalik likely called the inquest into Baby Makibi’s death. As health minister, Okalik, under the Coroner’s Act, has the authority to call a discretionary inquest.

Qaumagiaq said that, through his local MLA David Joanasie, he sent a letter to Okalik earlier this month requesting an inquest.

Earlier this year Suramala announced two mandatory inquests to be held in 2016, both relating to deaths involving the RCMP.

The first inquest, to be held in May, will examine the circumstances of the 2013 death of Tommy Anguilianuk in Hall Beach.

An inquest scheduled for November will look into the 2012 shooting death of Felix Taqqaugaq in Igloolik.

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