Alberta Justice has launched an investigation after CBC Information recorded video of a funeral dwelling worker dragging a useless particular person in a physique bag from a refrigerated trailer rented by the Workplace of the Chief Medical Examiner to handle a scarcity of physique storage.
On Monday, a CBC reporter witnessed a person in darkish clothes looking contained in the darkened trailer for the physique he had come to gather. A supply advised CBC Information the person was a funeral dwelling worker.
Seventeen our bodies, sheathed in white luggage, lined the ground of the refrigerated semi-trailer parked in rather a lot behind the Workplace of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME) off Belgravia Street in south Edmonton.
As soon as the funeral dwelling worker discovered the physique bag he was on the lookout for, he grabbed the foot finish with each fingers. Shuffling backward, he dragged the physique on its again about half the trailer’s size.
After climbing down a ladder, he tugged on the physique repeatedly to slip it onto an elevated gurney.
Warning: Some viewers might discover this video disturbing
A ready OCME attendant threw a white sheet over the physique bag. It fell off however was changed earlier than the physique was wheeled away on the gurney.
CBC Information has discovered the OCME took the weird step on Friday of renting a refrigerated trailer to retailer our bodies, in response to a sudden inflow that overwhelmed the Edmonton facility’s storage capability.
“Dignity is expected to be shown at all times to the deceased, and the OCME guidelines appear to not have been followed,” Dan Laville, a spokesperson for Alberta Justice, stated in an emailed assertion after being advised CBC Information had recorded the body-dragging scene, which was clearly seen from a public road.
“It is always a priority of the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner to ensure the deceased in their care are treated with the utmost dignity and respect. The claims of how one of the deceased in our care was handled are very concerning, and we are currently investigating.”
CBC Information has obtained inner OCME emails that present a workers member raised considerations with chief medical expert Dr. Elizabeth Brooks-Lim in regards to the propriety of storing our bodies in a trailer.
In a Sept. 5 electronic mail, a workers particular person tells Brooks-Lim that if our bodies are to be saved on the semi-trailer ground, “I feel that this might not be something that families will find acceptable. How do I approach this when speaking to families?”
In an electronic mail distributed to all OCME workers, Brooks-Lim responds: “The floor is clean, the bodies will be in body bags and the families do not need to be informed of the storage procedures.”
‘We can not flip our bodies away’
Brooks-Lim additionally dismissed the workers member’s question about whether or not it could be cost-effective to purchase extra morgue tables. She stated that would not deal with the instant overcrowding difficulty.
“We cannot turn bodies away,” Brooks-Lim wrote, including she is discussing long-term options to the storage drawback.
Alberta Justice, in its emailed assertion, stated there are insurance policies for the way OCME workers deal with deceased folks, and “the OCME also expects the removal of the deceased by funeral homes chosen by the next of kin to be conducted professionally and compassionately.”
NDP well being critic David Shepherd stated Wednesday that the UCP authorities should apologize to the households of the deceased and examine how this was allowed to occur.
“Who authorized this decision?” Shepherd stated. “Why did they not listen to the concerns that were raised by staff in the office that this would be something that would be considered a real indignity by families and other people involved in the system?”
Shepherd stated, if needed, the federal government should enhance funding to the OCME so our bodies are by no means once more handled this fashion.
In an emailed assertion Wednesday, Justice Minister Doug Schweitzer stated he was disturbed by what he noticed on the video.
“All Albertans, living or deceased, have the right to be treated with dignity, and any disrespect for the deceased or their loved ones is not reflective of our values,” Schweitzer stated.
“I have directed my department to investigate the matter and have been assured by the chief medical examiner that additional steps are being taken to ensure that the deceased are treated with the respect they deserve.”
‘Dignity of [the] deceased’
The OCME is re-issuing its tips to funeral houses and has added a short lived display “to preserve the dignity of [the] deceased.” The trailer is locked and monitored by cameras. A safety guard is on watch 24 hours a day.
Laville, the Justice spokesperson, stated the storage drawback was created by an unusually excessive share of latest dying circumstances on the finish of final week. He stated the inflow can require further time for identification and for households to make preparations with funeral houses.
However he stated most our bodies are collected inside one to 3 days of the autopsy examination, which happens inside 24 hours of a physique’s arrival on the OCME.
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Observe Charles Rusnell on Twitter: @charlesrusnell