In my July 4 column, entitled “Financial consequences needed for loss of life in this province,” I argued in favour of being able to bring a lawsuit to recover financial compensation for the loss of a loved one.
I used the example of a woman in the Lower Mainland whose mother had died needlessly because a health care worker had failed to change the batteries in her ventilator. Because the daughter didn’t lose any money as a result of her mother’s death, there was no claim.
It’s not just the elderly and infirm whose lives, under our laws, have no value in terms of compensation. It is also children. If your child is killed by a negligent driver, you actually save money be-cause children are expensive to raise. As such, you have no claim. Well, it’s a two-edged sword. If there’s compensation for those who lose loved ones, where does the compensation come from?
I have friends who work in the health care field and one of them actually reads my column. This young lady is a licensed practical nurse. My column gave her chills.
Over a beer or two, she explained that she entered the health care field because of a passion for helping people. Like most others in the field, she does her very best to serve the patients under her care. She works for an employer. She doesn’t decide her workload. She doesn’t set up the systems that should be put in place to ensure that ventilator batteries are looked after. She is placed in a work environment that she had no input into creating She is given a work-load that could invite errors. If she makes an innocent mistake and some-one dies as a result, should she lose her life savings?
A health care worker who, by mistake, causes someone’s death, would never be personally liable to pay financial compensation. No, the employer would take the heat. The one who has the responsibility and resources to ensure effective systems are put in place, and to ensure there is sufficient staffing, would bear the liability.
Of course, employers have insurance. The thing is, the cost of insurance increases if there are claims.
Claims for compensation or wrongful death, or the threat of those claims, would give employers the incentive to make sure that there are no wrongful deaths in their facilities. This may sound cynical, but I believe it to be true that our capitalistic world works on the basis of financial consequences. Take away the consequences for causing another human death and there’s no incentive to put financial resources into ensuring that never happens again.
Agree with me? E-mail me. Give me some ammunition to take to those fine politicians who make our laws to assist them in making the right decisions.
Published July 18, 2010 in the Kelowna Capital News