A callous lack of sensitivity shown

Coroner devastates bereaved family with one telephone call

Last month an area resident received a telephone call that will stay with her forever.   The call was from a coroner who bluntly asked her what she wanted him to do with her husband’s brain!

Really?  This call was completely unacceptable.

The caller showed an unbelievably cold and insensitive disregard for the feelings of another human being, and as a result managed to devastate a family who thought they had put their husband and father to rest 17 months earlier.

When Graham Frezell died suddenly at Royal Inland Hospital in October of 2010 from a bleeding ulcer in his intestines his family was in shock; and since that time they say it has been a long road back to a normal daily routine for his wife Kathy, and son Chris.  However, they were finally able to move on, and to daily cherish the memories they share of a good husband and father.  Or so they thought.

But that telephone call spoiled all that.  It should never have taken place in such a cold-hearted manner.  Surely there must be some sense of protocol that would save a family from such a shock. Could not the family physician have been contacted first, or another support person within the community?  Did anyone in the coroner’s office stop to think what kind of result that news could have on this family?

Unfortunately though, that is not where this callous insensitivity ends.   While Graham’s loved ones were dealing with this emotional bombshell, they were informed the brain would be transported to the funeral home, but the coroner’s office would not pay for the cremation.

“The stress of the whole thing just put me right back where I was before,” said Kathy, “I can’t eat or sleep, and I cry all the time.”

And while the family was fighting hard to deal with the emotional situation, believe it or not, she actually received another call to say the coroner had been given wrong information. A mistake had been made and they hadn’t found Graham’s brain in a container after all.  Apparently the brain had never been removed for autopsy.  Kathy was told that when  a pathologist checked the container a few days after the coroner’s initial call he found it to only contain a tissue sample.

Of course Interior Health quickly made the statement that both the lab and the coroner’s office followed due process.  They say it is unfortunate that an error was made in the information initially given to the coroner when the tissue container was found, and that they have apologized to Graham’s family.  They say the events were unfortunate, and there is now new protocol in place to prevent a similar situation ever happening again.

Little comfort for Kathy and Chris; and poor restitution for the emotional upheaval that one telephone call has put them through.