NNSL Photo/Graphic

Home page text size buttonsbigger textsmall textText size
Leishman hospital lawsuit dismissed
Mother vows to keep fighting, considers going to the Human Rights Commission

Shane Magee
Northern News Services
Wednesday, April 27, 2016

A judge has dismissed a lawsuit by a mother alleging negligence by doctors and Stanton Territorial Hospital in 2009 that led to her son stabbing himself in the chest with a knife.

NNSL photo/graphic

Margaret Leishman and her son Allisdair Leishman in his room at Stanton Territorial Hospital. An NWT Supreme Court judge dismissed the mother's lawsuit against the hospital last week, alleging staff didn't do enough to prevent her son from harming himself after being admitted to the hospital. - NNSL file photo

Margaret Leishman had filed the lawsuit in NWT Supreme Court in 2011 against doctors and the health authority about how they treated her son Allisdair Leishman.

The man was brought to the emergency room by ambulance after being found wandering outside on Nov. 4, 2009 for about 45 minutes without shoes, socks or coat. After an assessment, he fled the ER and went to the unlocked cafeteria kitchen where he found a knife and stabbed himself in the heart. Doctors saved his life but he was without oxygen to his brain long enough to cause serious damage. He now lives in Stanton's extended care ward.

His mother alleged that medical staff had not done enough to keep him in the ER or prevent him from accessing the kitchen and that his care was inadequate.

Lawyers representing the doctors and health authority moved in December to have the case thrown out.

In her written decision issued Tuesday, NWT Supreme Court Justice Karan Shaner ruled his actions that day were not foreseeable and dismissed the lawsuit.

"Mr. Leishman's injuries, while tragic, resulted from an impulsive and unanticipated act on his part which medical staff could not have predicted based on the information they had," Shaner wrote in dismissing the mother's argument that Stanton had a duty to prevent her son from accessing the kitchen.

Leishman had claimed the doctors didn't provide sufficient care by not diagnosing her son's injuries fast enough and didn't move quickly enough to get oxygen to his brain.

Shaner ruled doctors met the standard of care required based on expert testimony.

The judge wrote that his and his mother's life changed forever the day he walked into the hospital.

"But, neither Stanton, nor the defendant physicians are responsible for what happened. They did their best to treat Mr. Leishman, both upon his arrival and following his injury," Shaner wrote.

Margaret Leishman in an interview said she's disappointed in the decision. She said the case was lopsided in favour of the doctors and hospital because she lacked money to hire a lawyer, adding she's an old-age pensioner who uses her own resources to travel to Yellowknife from her home in Kakisa to see her son in hospital. She was denied legal aid and tried to get other lawyers but was unsuccessful.

"I think it's really unfair because it's really one sided. Justice in the NWT is really one sided if you can't even afford a lawyer," she said.

She said she's trying to find out if an appeal could take place and may go to the NWT Human Rights Commission.

"I'm taking a day just to think about all of these things. I don't want to make a rush decision," she said.

E-mailWe welcome your opinions. Click here to e-mail a letter to the editor.