Wed. Oct 27th, 2021

‘The pain of losing a child is terrible enough without the loss amplified by a public debate about the circumstances … sorry’

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EDMONTON-Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief physician, has retracted the government’s earlier claim that a 14-year-old had died of COVID-19, saying the province would no longer report COVID-19 deaths to children under 18 until a ” Review process “completed to verify all facts.

On Tuesday, Hinshaw announced that a 14-year-old was one of 33 new COVID-19 deaths reported over the long weekend, but that the teen also “had complex pre-existing medical conditions that played a significant role in their death. ”

In his statement, Hinshaw gave no further details about the child’s death; it would have made the 14-year-old the youngest Albertan to die of COVID-19.


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Hinshaw’s clinical delivery led to immediate condemnation on social media, with critics saying she dehumanized the dead child and minimized his death by mentioning existing conditions.

Rachel Notley, the leader of Alberta’s opposition New Democrats, wrote on Twitter: “Telling their loved ones that there were other health complications that contributed to their deaths gives no consolation at all.”

“No matter what ‘pre-existing conditions’ they had, this child died during a fourth preventable wave,” Notley wrote.

As it turns out, the baby did not actually die from COVID-19.

In a Facebook post, Simone Spitzer said the 14-year-old was her brother and that he died of brain cancer but had been diagnosed with COVID-19 two days before his death.


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“He died of stage 4 brain cancer, not covid,” Spitzer wrote, linking to a news story about the death. “This is fake news.”

Onshaw clarified Hinshaw that while the first report on the death of the child included COVID-19 as a “secondary cause”, new information indicated that COVID-19 was not the cause of death. She apologized directly to the family.

“The pain of losing a child is terrible enough without the loss amplified by a public debate about the circumstances,” Hinshaw said. “I’m sorry if the way I talked about that death made your grief worse.”

Hinshaw said death notifications are made in case of uncertainty and if COVID-19 is found not to be the cause, the death is removed from reporting. Or if COVID-19 later proves to be the cause, these deaths are added to the reporting.


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She explained that COVID-19 deaths are classified as such if COVID-19 is a primary or secondary cause, as well as in cases where there was a diagnosis but the final cause of death is under investigation.

“We have chosen to focus on being as timely as possible for the sake of transparency,” Hinshaw said.

Alberta will now review all deaths of persons under the age of 18 before releasing this information.

“Obviously we need a different process for young people,” Hinshaw said.

Throughout the pandemic, Alberta has reported comorbidities along with COVID-19 deaths; for example, nearly 83 percent of those who died of COVID-19 in Alberta also had hypertension. Although such transparency is highlighted as a way of explaining the risks — if you have certain health conditions, you are at greater risk of serious illness or death as a result of COVID-19 — critics have suggested that such information reduce deaths.


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“To those who believe the numbers are incorrect, I would say that the process we are following takes the responsibility very seriously to ensure that the deaths we report have COVID as either a primary or secondary cause,” said Hinshaw.

In December 2020, Hinshaw said the purpose of comorbidity reporting is to “provide additional information to Albertans” and help them assess the risk of COVID-19.

“I want to be clear … the presence of a chronic condition is not a death sentence, and should not be, so whether a person who has died had a chronic condition or not does not mean that death was less tragic, “she said.

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