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Ontario coroner?s office investigating senior?s death

BY HEIDI ULRICHSEN heidi@northernlife.ca The Ontario Coroner?s Office is investigating the death of a retired firefighter during an angiogram test Friday at the Memorial site of Sudbury Regional Hospital.
BY HEIDI ULRICHSEN

The Ontario Coroner?s Office is investigating the death of a retired firefighter during an angiogram test Friday at the Memorial site of Sudbury Regional Hospital.

Rheal (Curly) Lafrance, 75, died after the cardiac machine he was hooked up to malfunctioned and his heart failed, said a source close to the family.

Doctors indicated Lafrance may have died of an embolism because air got into his brain from the machine, the source said.

During an angiogram, a small catheter is inserted into a blood vessel and dye is injected so doctors can take X-ray pictures and determine how well blood is moving through arteries and veins.

?It?s been a horrible nightmare for the family. It started out to be a normal procedure. These things can happen. You can go into a dye test, and end up dying yourself because your heart gave out,? the source said.

?But this was unnecessary. It was a malfunction, you see. He died needlessly. He should not have died. That was the sad part of it.?

The cardiac catheter machine used on Lafrance was apparently fairly new, said the source. The source didn?t want to make any judgments before the coroner?s report is released, but speculated that perhaps staff hadn?t had time to be properly trained on the new equipment.

The equipment has been seized by the coroner as part of the investigation.

The hospital unveiled a new $1.2-million cardiac catheter machine at the Memorial site last month, but it?s not known whether this was the equipment involved in Lafrance?s death.

Sudbury Regional Hospital spokesperson Viviane Lapointe confirmed an unexpected death had happened at the hospital?s Memorial site Friday.

Hospital officials immediately called in Dr. David Evans, the regional supervising coroner for Toronto West, to do an investigation.

Evans took on the investigation because he is filling in for Dr. Peter Clark, the regional supervising coroner for northeastern Ontario.

The hospital is also conducting its own internal investigation into the death, which will look at all aspects of the patient?s care, she said.

?The hospital contacted the regional coroner, and the coroner is now doing a review. The hospital is co-operating fully with that review...The hospital is very limited in what it can say. I can?t divulge anything around patient information because there?s patient confidentiality rules,? said Lapointe.

Evans told Northern Life, ?There?s nothing much I can say other than the case is under investigation because we have no answers at this time.

Besides, even if we had answers, I couldn?t give them out without the family?s permission...We don?t give out half measures, I?m afraid.?

He said it would be ?months? before his report is released, because he has to wait for the autopsy and expert opinions.

Under the Coroner?s Act, he has to determine who died, where and when that person died and the medical cause of death.

Officers with the Greater Sudbury Police Service and Sudbury coroner Dr. Bill McMullen are assisting Evans with the investigation.

Lafrance served with the Sudbury Regional Fire Department for 32 years. His Tuesday funeral service was attended by many firefighters. He is survived by his wife, Betty, five children, 11 grandchildren and one great-grandchild.