An advocacy group has urged the B.C. Coroners Service to investigate the deaths of more than 30 homeless people last year. Even if an inquest is not the right method, the coroner should find a way to grant the request.
If an investigation can shed light on the causes and ways to reduce the death toll, it would be worth the effort.
The University of Victoria’s Poverty Law Club documented the deaths of more than 30 people over four months in 2012. That is three times more than in previous years.
It is obvious that homeless people are at greater risk of death from illness, exposure and other factors, and many of the 30 deaths were from natural causes. But that is a heavy toll in a community estimated to number about 1,500 at any time.
Most of the deaths were not reported to the coroner because they were from natural causes, and coroner spokeswoman Barb McLintock said it is too early to say if an inquest is possible. In response to the club’s request, the service is reviewing the cases it can find.
If an inquest is not possible, another option is a death-review panel, which could examine a group of deaths in hopes of finding common factors that might lead to recommendations.
It is easy to dismiss these deaths as the unavoidable consequence of living a hard life. But the dead were human beings who were among the most vulnerable in our society.
We cannot help them, but we could help others. A Coroners Service investigation might uncover something that has been missed — something that could save a life.
© Copyright 2013