For any parent, the loss of a child is an unthinkable, unimaginable heartbreak. Should the worst happen, a grieving family would expect the most precise and diligent care of their child in the hospital while they made appropriate funeral arrangements. This is important as for many people the funeral is a final chance for the families to say goodbye. This was not the case for grieving parents Tony Alagalak and Alice Kinak, a Canadian family was given the wrong body to bury after the death of their baby, they told CBC.
Alice Kinak says she was more than eight months pregnant when she and her partner, Tony Alagalak, went to the local health center in Arviat, Nunavut, on April 19. She was feeling unwell and was seeking medical expertise, but the small facility was not equipped to help them. According to Alagalak, there was nobody in the small town with the experience to help Kinak give birth.
The couple says they were forced to wait more than four hours for the emergency medevac plane to come to their aid. According to the couple, when it arrived, the plane took a further three hours to land in Winnipeg. Kinak was taken to St. Boniface Hospital, but the baby boy died while in the hospital. It has not been released when or how he died.
After Kinak and Alagalak returned home to Arviat, they say the child’s body was sent back from the hospital to the community. "They said it was our baby that came in" Alagalak said "so we buried him..with a funeral and everything with my family."
On May 15, the family says they were called to a meeting at the local health center, where officials from St. Boniface hospital reportedly told them they had made a mistake and had delivered the wrong body to Arviat. Hattie Alagalak, grandmother to the child, said it was “devastating and shocking”.
She said they were told that the other baby that they had buried would be taken out from the grave, and taken back to Winnipeg.
The hospital has not commented on how this mistake was able to happen, or who the first body that the family was sent belongs to. In an email to CBC News, the hospital said they would only be communicating with those directly involved.
The email also said "St. Boniface Hospital has an obligation to respect the confidentiality and privacy of all our patients and families. Our practice is to reach out to them directly about the specifics of their situation and their health information."
The correct body has since been sent to the family in Arviat, and they have been able to hold another burial service for the child. However, the family is still desperate for answers.
Tony Alagalak said "I would really like to know who made that mistake and why it happened. I don't think that should ever happen. It was like putting an extra thousand pounds on my shoulders knowing that our son was misplaced."
Although he recognizes that the nurses in the Arviat community did what they could, Alagalak says that there needs to be better health services for the people that live there. He said “we're Canadians too. We don't deserve any less than other Canadians, right?"