Scheunert family in the dark as inquest nears

An inquest into the deaths of two women at the Watson Lake Hospital is scheduled to begin in about two months. But the family of one of those women says they haven’t heard a word from the coroner.

An inquest into the deaths of two women at the Watson Lake Hospital is scheduled to begin in about two months.

But the family of one of those women says they haven’t heard a word from the coroner overseeing the case since he was appointed earlier this month.

The family of Teresa Scheunert is again raising concerns about the balance and fairness of the inquest that is scheduled for early June.

Scheunert’s daughter, Crystal Thomas, said the family thinks pre-inquest meetings are happening in Whitehorse this week.

Retired B.C. coroner Norm Leibel was appointed earlier this month to preside over the inquest into the deaths of both Scheunert and Mary Johnny. He was chosen by Yukon chief coroner Kirsten Macdonald.

Scheunert, 47, died June 21, 2012 and Johnny, 60, died less than two months later on Aug. 9.

Thomas said there are basic questions that need answering, so the family can participate at the inquest.

“We know absolutely nothing. There’s plenty of questions we have, even just down to whether we need to be down there for the full two weeks. It’s a huge financial burden for us to be there,” she said on the phone from Ponoka, Alberta. “Or if we can call witnesses, what witness we can call – we don’t have a clue about anything.”

But since Leibel was appointed, they have heard nothing, Thomas told the News today.

“Kirsten, because she’s stepping down, she doesn’t want to seem like she’s interfering. So I think she would appreciate if all our questions were directed elsewhere, but we have no one else to call.”

Thomas said Macdonald forwarded her family’s contact information to the new coroner on March 11.

Calls to the coroner’s office were not returned in time for today’s deadline.

“We don’t know if Norm is in the Yukon right now, we don’t know if they’ve started pre-inquest meetings without us, we don’t know if they’ve been postponed, we’re in the dark completely,” Thomas said.

NDP heath critic Jan Stick said someone should be reaching out to the families.

“To start off, I think the coroner should be contacting the families and asking them what their needs are and how they want to participate in the inquest into their family member’s death.”

Financially, family members are also at a disadvantage, Scheunert’s family said in a statement.

“Where other participants in the inquest are paid for their time to be there, families face the total costs of time from work, loss of income, childcare, travel and accommodation for an extended period of time being no less than two weeks this June.”

Stick said it would be worthwhile to look into changing the current legislation so that a family’s costs are also covered during an inquest.

“I think that’s something that needs to be looked at. Our legislation is pretty thin. I don’t think they’re asking for the moon.”

After Scheunert’s death, Macdonald ruled the registered nurse died of mixed drug toxicity.

That was contradicted by a later patient safety review, ordered by the hospital corporation, which said it was an irregular heartbeat that killed her.

Johnny died of a bowel obstruction after being originally diagnosed as having alcohol withdrawal.

Thomas said the family will continue to do the best it can.

“We need help, just to know what we need to do properly for the inquest. We’re trying to make sure that this doesn’t happen to anyone else.”

Contact Ashley Joannou at

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Two people walk up the stairs past an advance polling sign at the Canda Games Centre on April 4. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
April 12 is polling day: Here’s how to vote

If in doubt, has an address-to-riding tool

Yukon Party leader Currie Dixon addressing media at a press conference on April 8. The territorial election is on April 12. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Getting to know Currie Dixon and the Yukon Party platform

A closer look at the party leader and promises on the campaign trail

Yukon NDP leader Kate White, surrounded by socially distanced candidates, announces her platform in Whitehorse on March 29. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Getting to know Kate White and the Yukon NDP Platform

A detailed look at the NDP platform and Kate White’s leadership campaign this election

Crystal Schick/Yukon News
Sandy Silver announces the territorial election in Whitehorse. Silver is seeking a second term as premier and third term as Klondike MLA. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Getting to know Sandy Silver and the Yukon Liberal platform

Yukon Liberal Leader Sandy Silver is vying for a second term as… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
This week at city hall

A look at issues discussed by Whitehorse city council at its April 6 meeting.

Point-in-Time homeless count planned this month

Volunteers will count those in shelters, short-term housing and without shelter in a 24-hour period.

The Yukon’s new ATIPP Act came into effect on April 1. Yukoners can submit ATIPP requests online or at the Legislative Assembly building. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News file)
New ATIPP Act in effect as of April 1

The changes promise increased government transparency

A new conservancy in northern B.C. is adjacent to Mount Edziza Provincial Park. (Courtesy BC Parks)
Ice Mountain Lands near Telegraph Creek, B.C., granted conservancy protection

The conservancy is the first step in a multi-year Tahltan Stewardship Initiative

Yukon RCMP reported a child pornography-related arrest on April 1. (Phil McLachlan/Black Press file)
Whitehorse man arrested on child pornography charges

The 43-year-old was charged with possession of child pornography and making child pornography

Team Yukon athletes wave flags at the 2012 Arctic Winter Games opening ceremony in Whitehorse. The postponed 2022 event in Wood Buffalo, Alta., has been rescheduled for Jan. 29 to Feb. 4, 2023. (Justin Kennedy/Yukon News file)
New dates set for Arctic Winter Games

Wood Buffalo, Alta. will host event Jan. 29 to Feb. 4, 2023

Victoria Gold Corp. has contributed $1 million to the First Nation of Na-cho Nyak Dun after six months of production at the Eagle Gold Mine. (Submitted/Victoria Gold Corp.)
Victoria Gold contributes $1 million to First Nation of Na-cho Nyak Dun

Victoria Gold signed a Comprehensive Cooperation and Benefits Agreement in 2011

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley speaks to media in Whitehorse on October 30, 2020. Hanley is now encouraging Yukon to continue following health regulations, noting it could still be some time before changes to restrictions are made. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
No active COVID cases in Yukon

Hanley highlights concerns over variants, encourages vaccinations

Most Read