News / Edmonton

Alberta government releases public inquiry in death of Samantha Martin

The results of a fatality inquiry into the death of a 13-year-old Alberta girl were released by the province Friday.

Samantha Martin died in December 2006 in Edmonton's Stollery Children's Hospital. She had suffered from a rare genetic disease called Tetrasomy 18p, which lead to several symptoms and developmental delays.

Martin and had lived with a foster family for a large part of her life and at the time of her death, was living with her biological parents.

On Nov. 29, 2006, she came home from school and was vomiting and experiencing diarrhea. Later in the evening she was taken to hospital, and passed away on Dec. 3 when the decision was made to remove her from life support.

Martin's biological mother Velvet Martin was critical of government for not following up on issues that arose with the foster family. Velvet was successful in establishing Samantha's Law, an amendment to the Alberta Family Support for Children with Disabilities Act in December 2009, which states "The Family Support for Children with Disabilities Program to have separate legislation from that of child protection services."

A fatality inquiry determined that Martin's cause of death remains undetermined, but the manner of death was natural.

The recommendations from the report are as follows:

  • That Children’s Services should ensure that those caseworkers who work with a foster child have accurate and up to date information from a reliable medical source about the child’s disability and in particular, the impact, if any, of the disability on the health, weight, and fragility of the child. This needs to be well understood in order for the worker to make informed assessments about how the child is doing in care, especially in the case of a nonverbal child who cannot communicate concerns with the child’s worker.
  • That Children’s Services should look at enhancing current policies to ensure that children are actually receiving their annual medical checkups as required, including a diary system so that the issue is flagged and not inadvertently overlooked.
  • That where a recommendation comes from a reliable source (such as a school assessment) that a doctor examine the child for a possible medical issue that the child may be experiencing, that processes are in place to ensure the issue is flagged for follow up by Children’s Services in an effective and meaningful way, including required entry by the Children’s Services child care worker or other support staff at Children’s Services into a diary system.
  • Ensure that caseworkers for the child have a reasonable case load so that they have the time they need to be able to adequately document and follow-up on medical needs of the child.

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