Press one of the expand buttons to see the full text of an article. Later press collapse to revert to the original form. The buttons below expand or collapse all articles.



Samantha Martin Inquiry Ends

November 5, 2011 permalink

Testimony has ended in the inquiry into the death of Samantha Martin. The judge will report later.



Martin fatality inquiry comes to an end

Judge will compile results into report

Velvet Martin
Velvet Martin of St. Albert holds a portrait of her daughter Samantha who died in 2006 of heart failure after being in foster care. An inquiry into Samantha's death wrapped up this week.
FILE PHOTO/St. Albert Gazette

The fatality inquiry looking into the death of a 13-year-old St. Albert girl ended Friday and will now await a judge report to prevent future deaths.

The inquiry, which ran over several weeks in the spring and sat for three more days this week, was meant to determine what caused the death of Samantha Martin.

Martin was 13 when she collapsed and died from an apparent heart attack in December 2006. While the cardiac arrest was not in dispute, the inquiry is supposed to determine what caused the girl’s cardiac arrest, as well as make recommendations on how to prevent future deaths.

Martin lived in foster care for most of her life. She was born with a rare chromosomal disorder and the government insisted the Martins place her in foster care to receive the necessary medical supports.

She moved back to live with her biological family in the last six months of her life. Velvet Martin, Samantha’s mother, represented herself at the inquiry after several attempts to get government funding for legal counsel were unsuccessful.

Martin argued throughout the inquiry that more needed to be done for children in provincial foster care. In her closing submissions she suggested that Judge M. Carminati include 41 recommendations in her final report.

Those included suggestions of more training for social workers, lower caseloads and accountability measures that would see social workers dismissed if they failed to act on abuse.

She also argued for legislation ensuring children aren’t placed in foster care simply because they have complex medical needs. She said while the department has policies in place that are supposed to protect children, they are not being closely followed.

“The reality is the policies are not being adhered to, with tragic consequences,” Martin said.

Martin argued repeatedly during the inquiry that her daughter’s death was the result of a seizure disorder that went untreated in the foster home, even though it had been highlighted.

She asked Carminati to prohibit the foster family from continuing to care for children and asked to have her daughter’s social worker dismissed. She also asked the judge to require Children’s Services to write a letter of apology and pay for funeral costs when a child dies in care.

Cherisse Killick, who represented the department of Children’s Services, asked only that the judge remember the scope of the inquiry and not attempt to expand it.

“This is not a fatality inquiry into the child welfare system,” Killick argued.

Tom Engel, a lawyer representing the foster family, argued that the medical evidence made it clear the foster family had not contributed to the girl’s death.

“It is clear that the manner and cause of death of Samantha Martin had nothing to with the care she received in the [foster] family,” he said.

Engel’s proposed recommendations include making sure child welfare workers tell guardians about a child’s medical conditions and about treatments that might be necessary.

He also argued that children with Samantha’s rare condition not be left in the care of anyone who is not well educated about the risks of that condition, that in the event of a medical issue with such a child, 911 be called immediately and that eyewitnesses to a death in future fatality inquiries be interviewed.

Samantha’s brother was with her when she stopped breathing, but the medical examiner did not interview him during his review of the file.

Medical mystery

When the inquiry resumed Wednesday it heard testimony from the medical examiner and doctors that treated Samantha in the last days of her life.

Medical examiner Dr. Graeme Dowling said he left the girl’s cause of death as undetermined, because he simply could not conclusively say what caused her death.

“At the end of the day there just wasn’t enough information to say,” he said.

He said the cardiac arrest could have been caused by a seizure disorder or an infection brought about by the girl’s slightly impacted colon.

Dowling said it is rare, but it is possible for a seizure to lead to cardiac arrest.

“It is a medical mystery,” he said. “We don’t know why it happens, but it does happen and we recognize it.”

The court also heard from Dr. Allan De Caen, who first treated Samantha at the Stollery Children’s Hospital. After she initially collapsed, the family brought her to the Sturgeon Community Hospital, but she was quickly transferred to the Stollery.

De Caen said from the moment she arrived it was clear she had undergone significant brain damage.

“Many of the very basic brain reflexes were not present at the time,” she said.

De Caen also had trouble identifying her cause of death. He said he had theories but really no understanding why the young girl died.

“There are many possibilities as to why she became sick and died,” he said.

With the inquiry now concluded, the judge will compile her final report, which will be released publicly. There is no set release date.

Source: St Albert Gazette