Another B.C. family is suing a funeral home, alleging their 90-year-old mother was cremated against the family’s wishes before they could say goodbye at a memorial service and before an autopsy could be performed.
The civil lawsuit was filed last summer in B.C. Supreme Court by John Danylowich, and his sisters Jo-Ann Dabbs, Carolyn Clark and Lynda Chilton. Their lawsuit alleges Service Corporation International Canada, which operated the Pleasant Valley Funeral Home in Vernon, B.C., was negligent and contravened the Cremation, Internment and Funeral Services Act.
Below is the story in The Vancouver Sun last year, which details how things went horribly wrong for the family of Kae Danylowich:
“The family claims they were told by the funeral home that they could dress their mother, Kathleen (Kae) Danylowich, in her best clothes and keep her there as long as possible while an autopsy and toxicology report was done as part of a wrongful death suit they were considering against the Interior Health Authority.”
Although the family had planned to eventually cremate Kae, they said they were surprised it was done before the autopsy or even a service was held.
“The whole thing is so bizarre,” John Danylowich told The Vancouver Sun. “With no service, none of us got to see her. She was transferred to Armstrong in her pyjamas … a woman who took such good care of herself.”
The situation was exacerbated, the family added, when then-funeral home general manager Doug Sharpe allegedly passed Danylowich and Clark an envelope with a $300 cheque and promised them an “urn of their choice.” They refused and later rejected an offer of $600, according to the statement of facts filed in court.
“We were robbed of a proper goodbye and that our mom was not given the honour or dignity she deserved,” the court document stated.
The siblings say they have suffered anguish, sleeplessness and anxiety, and are seeking compensation and general and punitive damages, not only from the funeral home but from Interior Health and Dr. Allen Hignell, for what they allege was the wrongful death of their mother.
None of the allegations have yet to be proven in court.
In an email to Postmedia News, Service Corporation International said: “Out of respect for the privacy of the families we serve, we are unable to share any details regarding this situation.” Interior Health also declined to comment because it has not been served with notice of the lawsuit, said spokesman Karl Hardt.
Kae, a cancer sufferer with minor dementia, had been slated to spend a few weeks at Kelowna’s Cottonwoods Care Centre, run by Interior Health, while Danylowich, her main caregiver, was in the U.S. on a business and pleasure trip.
Danylowich gave strict instructions to staff: His mother must maintain her daily routine — including exercise on a stationary foot-pedal bike — and not change her medication without his consent. She was also not to take Aspirin or Tylenol because she was extremely sensitive to those drugs and would sleep all day. His sisters would check in constantly.
“My mom had been challenged with cancer but we had it under control,” Danylowich said. “She was doing fabulous, she was enjoying her life.”
The family claims they were assured their care plan would be met. But shortly after being admitted on June 29, 2014, Kae’s health rapidly declined, the family alleges, and, two weeks later, she wouldn’t eat or drink and was barely responsive, spending most of her time in bed in a fetal position.
When Dabbs allegedly found out from a nurse that Kae had been given extra-strength Tylenol, the family immediately moved her to a private care facility in Lake Country, where she started to recover, the writ states.
However, Kae died on July 27, 2014.
“All of us knew our mom really well,” Danylowich said. “She didn’t even have an Aspirin or she would be out for the day.”
The suit against Interior Health and Hignell alleges everything from flagrant disregard of their mother’s care plan to egregious changes to medication without approval, drug overdosing, neglect and breach of trust. It also alleges Hignell showed reprehensible misconduct, breach of duty and failing to follow through regarding symptoms.
The family says they had to fight to get Kae’s medical records and allege that their mother, who weighed only 80 pounds, was prescribed 10 times the morphine she had initially been taking.
“Who really is watching the doctors with these people who are marginalized, the seniors?” Danylowich said. “There are no measures in place.”
His sisters say they suffer feelings of anguish and devastation, and don’t feel they’ve had a chance to properly mourn their mother. Danylowich said Kae had enjoyed living on the lake, where she would use her foot-pedal machine daily and reward herself with a rum and cola in the afternoon.
“Sometimes I think that’s lost in the big care picture, that this is a person who has a family,” he said.
(This website was created to boost consumer awareness about the funeral industry and to try to educate consumers when dealing with the death industry.)
In my experience the best way to avoid these errors is to work with small, local funeral homes. They tend to be more involved with all the details. I work mainly with family owned parlors. Feel free to contact me for any advice. Visit Ocean Ashes