Criminal responsibility for Brian Sinclair’s death

Brian Sinclair’s death, which resulted from being ignored while waiting for urgent medical care in a hospital emergency department for 34 hours, should have triggered a police investigation and criminal charges.

“The HSC and its medical staff had a legal duty to care for and provide medical treatment to Mr. Sinclair.  It appears that they knew Mr. Sinclair was in urgent need of care, but endangered his life and safety by failing to act even after several non-medical staff and patients alerted nurses to his serious distress.  On the basis of the publicly available information (including press reports and the documents released to the Sinclair family by the office of the Chief Medical Examiner) it would appear that the HSC and its medical personnel departed in a marked and substantial manner from the standard of care required of a hospital emergency room and its staff, and that this failure resulted in Mr. Sinclair’s death.  Accordingly, there appear to be grounds to lay a charge of causing death by criminal negligence under s.220 of the Criminal Code.  This is a serious criminal offence punishable by up to life imprisonment.

Moreover, the HSC and its staff had a specific legal duty to provide the necessaries of life, including medical attention for a bladder infection and blocked catheter, food, and water or hydration, to Brian Sinclair, who was a person under their charge. They appear to have entirely failed to do so for 34 hours, and this foreseeably endangered Brian Sinclair’s life.  Accordingly, there appear to be grounds to lay a charge of failing to provide the necessaries of life under s.215 of the Criminal Code, an offence punishable by up to five years in prison.”  – Clayton Ruby

Legal opinion by Clayton Ruby

Endorsements of Ruby opinion by 29 senior Canadian law professors and international experts

After significant public pressure, the Winnipeg Police Service finally did undertake an investigation.  The Winnipeg Free Press reported in September 2011 that the police would be recommending that criminal charges be laid, according to a Manitoba Justice source, but the police denied that report.  Ultimately, in July 2012, the Crown Attorney made a decision not to proceed with any charges.  The Sinclair family requested that the reasons for that decision be disclosed, but that request was refused.