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Les judges must take into account the risks of alcohol withdrawal, according to a coroner

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The alcohol dependence of the accused was well known to the judge. (Archive photo)

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Coroner Éric Lépine recommends that judges of the Court of Quebec take health risks into account when issuing orders for non-consumption of alcohol to dependent persons, after the death of a resident of Inukjuak, in Nunavik, died suddenly following withdrawal.

The 31-year-old man was living with a strong dependence on alcohol at the time of his appearance at the Court last March.

He pleaded guilty to criminal charges and was sentenced to house arrest, with a ban on alcohol.

< p class="StyledBodyHtmlParagraph-sc-48221190-4 hnvfyV">Determined to respect his conditions, he went to live with a friend, to get away from the people around him who could have encouraged him to use.

He went there, without medical help to help him with his withdrawal, without knowing that his life could be in danger.

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More than 1,800 people live in the Inuit community of Inukjuak. (File photo)

Stopping alcohol suddenly for an addict can cause mild symptoms like tremors and discomfort, but can also lead to death in more severe cases.

The same evening after his appearance, his friend prepared dinner for him, but his tremors were so bad that he could not hold his plate. He said he felt good and went to rest.

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Later in the evening, his friend noticed that he was unconscious in his bed and was rushed to the local Village Community Services Centre. He was pronounced dead on scene.

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He was pronounced dead at the Inukjuak dispensary on March 10. (File photo)

An autopsy later confirmed that he died from the consequences of acute alcohol withdrawal, to which he was dependent, we read in coroner Éric Lépine's report.

According to the coroner, it would have been preferable if the man had been medically evaluated before sentencing, to ensure that he was able to respect his condition imposed by the judge .

His dependence on alcohol was also known to the magistrate, who had been informed of it by the defense lawyer.

During the 9 minutes that his appearance lasted, he was shaking and was already visibly in withdrawal, according to his lawyer.

< p class="StyledBodyHtmlParagraph-sc-48221190-4 hnvfyV">He was not questioned about his medical condition and his real ability to maintain sobriety without medical assistance, we can read in the coroner's report.

According to him, his death could have been avoided if he had been able to benefit from appropriate medical monitoring, particularly in the first days of withdrawal.

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His death was avoidable according to the coroner.

The coroner therefore proposes to include the additional condition of reporting to the health center within a very short time in order to be medically accompanied when a person is ordered to stop drinking alcohol.

He also recommends making judges and lawyers aware of the consequences of alcohol withdrawal.

Éric Lépine here calls on the Quebec Bar and the Judicial Council to offer professional training in this sense.

Invited to comment on the report, the President of Quebec, Me Catherine Claveau, confirms that her teams are already working on the development of training which will be presented to its members next spring.

For Indigenous people, that means adapting our justice system to their reality, and therefore collaborating with them. All those involved in the bar, namely the prosecutors, the lawyers who work in youth protection, in private practice, we all have this concern. […] We will try to improve things as much as possible, explains Me Claveau.

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