Shelly Bunnah and Michael Thornton with a photo of two-year-old Carter who died in May 2018, they say due to a misdiagnosis by a Chilliwack doctor. They presented a petition to MLA Laurie Throness asking to create a no-fault compensation system for medical errors. (Paul Henderson/ The Progress)

Shelly Bunnah and Michael Thornton with a photo of two-year-old Carter who died in May 2018, they say due to a misdiagnosis by a Chilliwack doctor. They presented a petition to MLA Laurie Throness asking to create a no-fault compensation system for medical errors. (Paul Henderson/ The Progress)

B.C. parents blame medical negligence in toddler’s death

Petition to ask for medical errors to be tracked and no-fault compensation for victims

When Carter Thornton woke up on May 12, 2018, he was his regular, frisky little self.

His mother Shelly Bunnah says the two-year-old was alert and behaving as normal. She says Carter threw his bottle in the sink, before she went downstairs to use the washroom.

In just a few minutes she was back upstairs, and little Carter was gone.

“He was not breathing,” she told The Progress. “I did CPR until the ambulance came. The next day he passed away at BC Children’s Hospital.”

Not only is the death of any child tragic. Carter’s death was tragic and unexpected. But Shelly and her husband, Carter’s father Michael Thornton, think it was preventable, and should not have been unexpected.

“There is medical negligence going on in our community and in our country, not just B.C., it’s all over and it’s about time something changes and people start talking about it,” an emotional Bunnah said.

Carter had his first seizure on July 27, 2017. A local pediatrician said it was most likely epilepsy even though Carter had no history of the condition. Week and months passed before an electroencephalogram (EEG) was ordered despite protestations that Carter be given a CT scan.

When he finally had the EEG in March 2018, it turned up nothing, and the doctor finally agreed to order the CT scan at the end of April 2018. Bunnah said Carter was scheduled for the scan in June, but he died before it could be done.

But she also found out the doctor didn’t order the EEG back in summer of 2017 when it should have been ordered. That wasn’t done until February 2018, a delay she says cost her son his life because he didn’t have epilepsy, he died of meningitis and encephalitis.

“Because of that time lapse, my son is gone, because his lack of compassion and love for my child,” she said. “As a parent, you think they are going to care for them. If he would have put in the requisition in August 2017 we would have had results by November, a CT scan by January and they would have found all of this.”

Bunnah visited Chilliwack-Kent Laurie Throness’s office recently to hand him a petition to bring to the provincial Legislature to ask for two changes in the medical system: that medical errors and misdiagnoses be tracked; and that there be a no-fault compensation system created to help victims of medical errors.

“The third leading cause of death in Canada is medical negligence,” Bunnah said. “It needs to stop happening.”

Bunnah filed a complaint with the BC College of Physicians and Surgeons in January, and they expect a decision in a final report by the end of this year.

In the meantime, Bunnah has her petition, which is a copy of a petition created by retired nurse Teri McGrath in the Okanagan who is advocating for no-fault compensation for victims of medical errors.

“There’s no-fault compensation with ICBC if you are in a car accident,” McGrath said last month. “It doesn’t matter who caused it. But if you are banged up, you get help. That’s what we are looking for in the Canadian medical system.”

• READ MORE: B.C. woman continues fight against preventable medical errors

Back in June, McGrath created an online petition to the federal government Parliament of Canada E-petition website, but a response said, in part, that healthcare is the responsibility of provinces and territories.

In her petition, McGrath takes particular aim at the millions of taxpayer dollars transferred yearly to the Canadian Medical Protective Association (CMPA), the legal body that “engage[s] patients and families in lengthy, expensive hearings.”

“The CMPA needs to go because they are this safety blanket,” Bunnah said. “[Doctors] know they are not going to have to pay for their lawyer and they know damn well that 90 per cent of people abandon their cases because they can’t afford it.”

Throness accepted Bunnah’s petition and he intends to consult with his colleagues to see who else has received them, so that maybe they can present them to the Legislature together.

“Shelley and her family have experienced an enormous tragedy that will affect them for the rest of their lives, and I will be pleased to present the petition on their behalf,” Throness told The Progress. “Medical errors contribute to harm that Canadians suffer, and they must be reduced.

“The idea of a no-fault compensation system is worthy of further study, and I fully support the reporting of medical errors as a way of discovering patterns of behaviour that can be changed to avoid errors in the future.”

When asked to comment on the case and the broader picture, an Ottawa-based CMPA spokesperson said he could not comment on specific cases and added that no-fault systems likely result in greatly reduced compensation for injured patients or significantly higher system costs.

“Canada’s model is grounded in a tort-based compensation system, which is a relatively inexpensive program compared to other models around the world,” according to Dr. Doug Bell, associate executive director and managing director for Safe Medical Care at the CMPA. “It also seeks to ensure that patients proven to have been injured as a result of negligent care receive appropriate compensation.

“The CMPA recognizes that every form of medical liability protection has areas for improvement and we believe every reasonable effort should be made to improve the current system before undertaking radical and, within the Canadian context, unproven change. To that end, we work with the provincial governments (including that in British Columbia), medical regulatory authorities and others to advocate for sensible system improvements.”

– with a file from Robin Grant, Penticton Western News


@PeeJayAitch
paul.henderson@theprogress.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Vaccinations are set to resume in the small community of Tatchet, according to Lake Babine Nation’s Deputy Chief. (Black Press Media file photo)
Lake Babine Nation vaccine rollout resumes after a short pause

A COVID positive test within the care team had put the vaccinations on hold

Cheslatta Chief Corrina Leween received one of the COVID-19 vaccines on the Southside, on Wednesday, Jan. 13. (Submitted/Lakes District News)
COVID-19 vaccination begins in Burns Lake

Senior population, health care workers and First Nations among the first to get the vaccine

Sasquatch sighting. (Omineca Ski Club photo/Lakes District News)
Sasquatch on the loose at Omineca Ski Club

Head out to the trails to see if you can spot it; a tongue-in-cheek response from the club President

Two books in particular became quite popular at the start of the pandemic — Soap and Water Common Sense, The definitive guide to viruses’ bacteria, parasites, and disease and The Great Influenza, The story of the deadliest pandemic in history. (Priyanka Ketkar photo/Lakes District News)
Burns Lake Public Library lent 20,916 books in 2020

Gained 67 new patrons throughout the year

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry prepares a daily update on the coronavirus pandemic, April 21, 2020. (B.C. Government)
B.C. adjusts COVID-19 vaccine rollout for delivery slowdown

Daily cases decline over weekend, 31 more deaths

A female prisoner sent Langford police officers a thank-you card after she spent days in their custody. (Twitter/West Shore RCMP)
Woman gives Victoria-area jail 4.5-star review in handwritten card to police after arrest

‘We don’t often get thank you cards from people who stay with us, but this was sure nice to see’: RCMP

An elk got his antlers caught up in a zip line in Youbou over the weekend. (Conservation Officer Service Photo)
Elk rescued from zip line in Youbou on Vancouver Island

Officials urge people to manage items on their property that can hurt animals

A Trail man has a lucky tin for a keepsake after it saved him from a stabbing last week. File photo
Small tin in Kootenay man’s jacket pocket saved him from stabbing: RCMP

The man was uninjured thanks to a tin in his jacket

Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation Chantel Moore, 26, was fatally shot by a police officer during a wellness check in the early morning of June 4, 2020, in Edmundston, N.B. (Facebook)
Frustrated family denied access to B.C. Indigenous woman’s police shooting report

Independent investigation into B.C. woman’s fatal shooting in New Brunswick filed to Crown

Delta Police Constable Jason Martens and Dezi, a nine-year-old German Shepherd that recently retired after 10 years with Delta Police. (Photo submitted)
Dezi, a Delta police dog, retires on a high note after decade of service

Nine-year-old German Shepherd now fights over toys instead of chasing down bad guys

Nurses collect samples from a patient in a COVID suspect room in the COVID-19 intensive care unit at St. Paul’s hospital in downtown Vancouver, Tuesday, April 21, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
5 British Columbians under 20 years old battled COVID-19 in ICU in recent weeks

Overall hospitalizations have fallen but young people battling the virus in hospital has increased

Canada released proposed regulations Jan. 2 for the fisheries minister to maintain Canada’s major fish stocks at sustainable levels and recover those at risk. (File photo)
New laws would cement DFO accountability to depleted fish stocks

Three B.C. salmon stocks first in line for priority attention under proposed regulations

Trees destroyed a Shoreacres home during a wind storm Jan. 13, 2021. Photo: Submitted
Kootenay woman flees just before tree crushes house

Pamala DeRosa is thankful to be alive

Most Read