The family of a Toronto woman who died due a violent “altercation” with security guards at a Toronto hospital, according to a coroner’s report, are calling on police to release security footage of the incident.
The footage, from the early morning of May 11, shows Danielle Warriner, 42, struggling to breathe in the lobby of Toronto General Hospital, according to the report. During this time, four security guards approach and confront her, with a female member of the security team eventually grabbing Warriner and slamming her into a nearby wall.
The other security guards then place Warriner in a restraint on the ground. What happens during the following three minutes is unclear, as the camera was “purposely turned away” by another member of the security team to obstruct the view of the altercation, said Dr. Ingo von Both, the forensic pathologist who contributed to Warriner’s autopsy report.
A provincial coroner’s investigation concluded that Warriner died from brain damage caused by a lack of oxygen she sustained during the altercation with security.
“She suffered a cardiorespiratory arrest that was precipitated by a physical altercation with several hospital security staff where she also was restrained,” the coroner’s report said.
“The cause of death is hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy due to restraint asphyxia following struggle and exertion in a woman with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).”
Neither Toronto police nor the University Health Network (UHN)—the agency that manages both Toronto Western and Toronto General—provided VICE World News with a viewing or copy of the video.
The University Hospital Network said in its quality of care report that it fired two staff members and disciplined two others as a result of the incident. The agency would not confirm to VICE World News the roles of the staff members, nor would it comment on whether any members of the security team including the security camera operator were disciplined.
“This matter is under investigation by Toronto Police Service and we are cooperating with that investigation, as we did with the coroner’s office,” Gillian Howard, VP of public affairs at UHN, told VICE World News via email.
“Results of investigations are shared directly with individual patients or their substitute decision maker. UHN does not comment on individual patient matters—except to the patient, a substitute decision maker or a family member. We do not comment on matters of individual employment.”
Toronto police did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
While VICE World News has not been able to view the video because Toronto police have refused to release it, its contents have been described via notes provided by the lawyer for Warriner’s sister Denise and corroborated by the coroner’s investigation.
“You see a dying woman in that video,” said Denise. “Even if she (wasn’t) dead at that point in time, it’s very clear to anyone watching.”
“I want people to see this video because I can’t help but feel cynical…like nothing is going to be done,” Denise added.
Warriner, who had bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder, had been in and out of Toronto General Hospital since late April, when she was initially diagnosed with COVID-19.
After being released following successful treatment of the virus in early May, Warriner returned to the hospital on May 10 with complaints that she was having difficulty breathing.
On May 22, after calling various hospitals and shelters around the city due to not hearing from her sister for days, Denise learned that Warriner was in a brain-dead coma at Toronto Western Hospital following an altercation with security staff at Toronto General.
Denise and the Warriner family eventually removed Warriner from life support on May 27, just three days after her 43rd birthday.
For months, Denise said she had no idea exactly what had happened to her sister. All she knew was that there was an incident with security that had left Warriner in a coma, and that her sister had tested negative for COVID-19.
In September, however, a Toronto police detective let Denise and her lawyer view security footage of the incident, which Denise said left her “in a state of shock.”
“It didn’t seem real at first. Like I was watching a movie or something that was made for TV,” Denise said. “They treated her like an animal.”
Denise and her legal representative, Nick Papageorge, and the coroner’s notes describe how in the video, a few minutes after the camera was turned away, the security guards reappear in frame alongside Warriner, who appears to be unconscious in a wheelchair. While walking down the hallway with her, one of the security guards reportedly holds Warriner’s head up, as her limp body begins to fall sideways out of the chair.
At some point in the interaction, CPR needed to be performed on Warriner and she was successfully resuscitated. Despite being revived, she did not regain consciousness.
Denise said the caregivers’ behaviour in the video, as well as the response from the UHN, shows that patients with mental illness are regularly treated dismissively.
“The only reason it’s been exposed is because she died,” Denise said. “The coordinated effort by the caregivers in the hospital was so casual that it suggested to me that this is common practice. This is part of the culture.”
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