Nunavut coroner’s office launches pediatric death review committee
Former coroner planned same committee two years ago
Starting in January, a special committee chaired by Nunavut’s chief coroner will review all deaths in the territory of children below the age of five.
That’s after Nunavut’s Office of the Chief Coroner announced on Wednesday, Dec. 19, a new pediatric death review committee for Nunavut.
“The committee will help identify risk factors, trends and patterns from cases reviewed to make recommendations towards the development of effective intervention, awareness and prevention strategies,” Nunavut’s new chief Coroner, Khen Sagadraca, said in a news release.
The committee will also “make recommendations that prevent deaths in similar circumstances,” he said.
Child mortality rates are high in Nunavut, especially for infants, according to Statistics Canada.
Since the beginning of January 2018, the Coroner’s office initiated 18 investigations into the deaths of children under the age of five,” Sagadraca told Nunatsiaq News.
This committee was planned by the chief coroner’s office, the Government of Nunavut’s Department of Health and the Nunavut RCMP, along with neonatal and intensive care medical experts and a pediatrician—a doctor who specializes in child health care.
The committee’s workings will be confidential, and will help the coroner’s office understand what situations might lead to a child’s death in Nunavut.
Ontario has had a similar pediatric death review committee for over 10 years.
But this isn’t the first time such a committee has been talked about in Nunavut.
In fact, almost the same announcement was made two years ago by then Nunavut Chief Coroner Padma Suramala.
That was directly following an inquest into the 2012 death of baby Makibi Olayuk Akesuk in Cape Dorset.
Suramala is no longer Nunavut’s chief coroner.
“This was mentioned in 2016 by the previous chief coroner, however, I’m unable to comment on whether this committee happened, occurred or not in the past as I was not in the position as chief coroner at that time,” Sagadraca said in an email.
Sagadraca previously filled roles as administrative coroner and deputy coroner in Nunavut.
Now that the child death review committee has been launched, its expert members will help the coroner’s office understand when and if child deaths are avoidable, and make recommendations that could help prevent future deaths. The committee will also help the coroner identify the “presence or absence of systemic issues, problems, (or) gaps” in related government and front-line services, Sagadraca said.
An April coroner’s inquest into the 2015 death of Iqaluit infant Amelia Keyookta found her cause of death was undetermined. At the inquest, a coroner’s jury made recommendations that the GN’s social service office employ more Inuktut-speaking social workers and translators, that foster parents be trained in safe sleeping practices for babies, and that parents be given more information about the health effects of cannabis smoke on young children.
But the coroner only holds inquests when a child dies in government care, as four-month-old Keyookta did the day after she was apprehended from her family.
Now the coroner’s office will have access to an in-depth review following the death of any Nunavut toddler or baby.