How did 3-month-old Makibi Timilak die? Coroner's inquest begins today

A Cape Dorset, Nunavut, family hopes to find some answers this week about how their three-month-old son died as an inquest into the death of Makibi Timilak starts in the community Tuesday.

Timilak died more than four years ago but questions still remain over how it happened.

“Hopefully some unanswered questions will be answered and ultimately bring further closure,” said David Joanasie, the MLA for Baffin South following a public meeting in Cape Dorset’s community centre Monday night.

“There’s a baby that died. That in and of itself is something of course nobody wants to happen.”

The territory used the meeting as an opportunity to inform the public what to expect during the week.

About 15 people are expected to testify, including the family, pathologists, an infectious disease specialist and nurses who were working at the Cape Dorset health centre at the time of Timilak’s death.

Lingering questions

The nurse at the centre in the story is not expected to testify.

A summons for Debbie McKeown was issued but she can not be located, according to a lawyer representing the coroner.

“It’s unfortunate,” Joanasie said. ”It feels like a missing piece that will be left.

“But I think the coroner’s office and this inquest will do the best they can to solve the puzzle.”

Cape Dorset coroner's inquest setup

The community hall where the coroner’s inquest will take place. (John Van Dusen/CBC)

One night in April 2012, Timilak stopped eating and was having trouble breathing. His mother called the community’s health centre and spoke  with a nurse, asking if she could bring her son in. The mother says the nurse who took the call, Debbie McKeown, refused to see the child. 

That night Makibi died.

McKeown was later promoted to run the health centre while the family was left with questions around how Timilak died.

First it was ruled sudden infant death Syndroyme (SIDS) but after a second autopsy, it was changed to a viral infection. Then, changed back. Today the cause is undetermined.

“There is no specific cause of death because that’s what we’re asking the jury to find,” said Amy Groothuis, council for the coroner. 

“All of this is essentially a blank slate that’s going to be put in front of a jury and after hearing all the evidence they’ll be asked to determine a cause of death.”

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