Expert Says Opportunities Missed Impacted Survival of Don Mamakwa
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On October 18, the Inquest into the deaths of Don Mamakwa and Roland McKay heard expert testimony from Dr. Alim Pardhan and Dr. Tomislav Svoboda regarding missed opportunities for the survival of Mr. Mamakwa. Dr. Pardhan is a specialist in emergency medicine and an Associate Professor in the Division of Emergency Medicine, Departments of Medicine and Pediatrics at McMaster University. Dr. Svoboda specializes in the research and development of community-based healthcare for individuals who are chronically homeless with severe problems related to substance use and mental illness.
Dr. Pardhan testified that there were significant opportunities that, if taken, would have increased the likelihood for the survival of Mr. Mamakwa. Mr. Mamakwa’s cause of death was found to be Diabetic or Alcoholic Ketoacidosis, a condition which has a 97% survivability rate with prompt treatment. In the footage of Mr. Mamakwa in the booking area of the TBPS station, he can be heard breathing rapidly and with difficulty. Dr. Pardhan testified that, based on his respiratory rate, Mr. Mamakwa should have been immediately taken to hospital.
Dr. Pardhan also testified to areas of training which would be beneficial to officers to better understand medical issues which may present as simple intoxication, including vital signs assessment and an awareness that a lack of improvement in vital signs over time following arrest is an indicator that underlying medical conditions are present and that an individual should be taken to hospital of further medical assessment.
Dr. Svoboda additionally testified that there were also multiple community supports which would have increased Mr. Mamakwa’s likelihood of survival had they been available. Mr. Mamakwa suffered from diabetes, mental health issues including depression, anxiety and PTSD, frequent bouts of diabetic ketoacidosis, and infections which at the time of his passing were serious enough as to risk amputation. Given this complex and extensive medical history, Dr. Svoboda testified that Mr. Mamakwa required significant community support to maintain his wellbeing, and without that support, was unable to adequately follow the treatment plans he had been provided by doctors at the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre.
The inquest continues today, before resuming next week on October 24, 2022. Falconers LLP partner Asha James and associate Amanda Micallef are representing the families of the two men.
Related Media Coverage
Logan Turner, CBC News (October 19, 2022) “First Nations man had ‘quite good’ chance of survival if taken to hospital instead of cell, inquest told”
TB NewsWatch (October 18, 2022) “Mamakwa likely would have survived if given medical treatment, expert testifies
Holly McKenzie-Sutter, Turtle Island News (October 18, 2022) “Autopsy panel testifies at inquest into Indigenous men’s police custody deaths”
TB NewsWatch (October 18, 2022) “Inquest jury view video showing police officers dragging Indigenous man to cell”
TB NewsWatch (October 14, 2022) “Thunder Bay Police officer admits he ‘should have done better’ during arrest of Mamakwa”
TB NewsWatch (October 13, 2022) “Paramedics, police testify in Mamakwa and McKay inquest”
CTV News Northern Ontario (October 13, 2022) “How stereotypes led to the death of two Indigenous men in Thunder Bay police custody: expert”
The Globe and Mail (October 12, 2022) “Stereotypes seen in man’s treatment before he died in police custody, says expert witness”
Luke Turner CBC News (October 11, 2022) “Inquest for 2 First Nations men who died in police custody in Thunder Bay, Ont., begins today”