Ninety minutes and a pair of scissors

I want to thank all the people who have given valuable feedback on my last blog post about the death of Brandon Duncan. It all helped to clarify some questions which only an open and transparent inquiry can answer.

The first thing to remember is that the police did not initiate the events that led up to the young man’s death. They were part of ending it, but they didn’t start it.

Mr. Duncan went to the hospital because something was wrong with his colostomy. I have never had one, and don’t know much about them. What I do know I learned at Google University where I majored in Wikipedia. A colostomy is not a pleasant thing to have and the most common thing to go wrong with them is they get bunged up. A clogged colostomy can be extremely painful. Also extremely smelly. My guess is that’s what went wrong with Mr. Duncan.

I have never sat in the same room as a man with a bunged up colostomy, and I hope I never do. A good question for a public inquest is why was Mr. Duncan left sitting in the emergency department for 45 minutes before being attended to.

The next question goes straight to the heart of the crisis in our health care system. Why was a very disturbed patient handed a pair of scissors and directed into the washroom to attend to himself? Had a trained health care professional gone with him into a proper treatment room, the rest of the series of tragic events might not have unfolded.

In the Age of Austerity, our public services suffer. The people who do the work for us  are doctors, nurses, teachers, police officers, ambulance drivers and others. The vast majority help an awful lot more people than they hurt. Those who do their jobs well should be thanked and commended. Those who screw up should be held accountable. And yes, people working in these professions should be held to a higher standard of conduct. They chose to work in public service, and should constantly work to earn our trust.

The sad paradox is that we expect better and demand more while governments provide less. It can’t continue.

Health care and police services often intersect. They could be two sides of the same community coin. The symbiotic relationship between them is becoming more obvious as we improve our understanding that manifestations of mental illness are not behaviour problems.

 At the end of the story, ninety minutes after arriving at the hospital, Mr. Duncan lay dead in a pool of blood with a pair of scissors on the floor beside him.

 We need to know why.


  1. I have had to go to the emergency dept several times in the past couple of years (lacrosse and basketball injuries, plus other things) and the only thing I’ve noticed that’s changed before and after this poor man’s death at the hands of the police is that there seem to be even more signs all around telling you what to do and how to behave and what their expected code of conduct is – that, and now, there are even more security guards wearing bullet-proof vests, stationed front and centre right at the entrance. Are they that afraid of sick people? Or are they afraid the cops might start shooting again?

  2. Very excellent points, Alan, and I wish I could provide a fresh perspective. I cannot. I can only do what little I can to help, and make as much noise as I can about the need for public money to be spent where it should be spent: healthcare including mental healthcare, education, housing, poverty reduction, and the list goes on……..

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