Why Inquests?

On May 25, 2006, the Honourable Peter Justice Cory released the decision in two human rights complaints into the failure of Ontario's Chief Coroner to call inquests into the deaths of Melba Braithwaite and Thomas Illingworth. The Coroners Act fails to make mandatory inquests into the deaths of psychiatric patients. This is to be contrasted with mandatory inquests arising from other deaths in state custody. Justice Cory recognized that detention in psychiatric facility can mean severe restriction of movement, limited access to visiters and little control over medication.

But why inquests? Inquests allow the public to scrutize openly that which occurs behind closed doors so that there can be no doubt or suspicion left at the end of the inquest. Time and time again, we see coroner's juries, made up of average citizens, recommending ways to improve the actions of the state. As hospitals and physicians increasingly take on responsibilities for the restrictions of our citizens liberties, they become state actors in need of public review and scrutiny.