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Monday, May 04, 2009

Delirium unlikely cause of Dziekanski's death: Psychiatrist

VANCOUVER — Robert Dziekanski was likely suffering from delirium when he was Tasered at Vancouver International Airport in October 2007, but delirium is unlikely to cause spontaneous death, a Vancouver psychiatrist testified Monday at the Braidwood Inquiry into how the Polish immigrant died.

"By and large, for an otherwise healthy individual, even if they have alcoholism, in a state of delirium and dehydration it's unlikely that a person would die spontaneously from these features," said Dr. Shaohua Lu, who prepared a psychiatric diagnosis of Dziekanski for the RCMP last year.

Lu's report was based on witness statements.

When asked about the seriousness of Dziekanski's condition by Helen Roberts, counsel for the federal government, Lu said medical attention was very important.

Lu testified many of the conditions Dziekanski was experiencing, such as sleep deprivation, dehydration, lack of language skills, and alcohol withdrawal, may precipitate delirium in some cases.

Dziekanski, who had come from Poland to live with his mother, had been travelling more than 24 hours and was unable to connect with his mother at the airport.

Just before someone called 911, he became agitated and threw a chair. Seconds later, police arrived and one officer gave Dziekanski, 40, five jolts with a Taser stun gun. He was then restrained but later died.

Walter Kosteckj, counsel for Zofia Cisowski, Dziekanski's mother, questioned the diagnosis based on Dziekanski's ability to follow directions, fill out customs forms and recognize police.

"The report is based on facts and assumptions I believed to be true at the time," said Lu. He added that making an exact diagnosis is difficult outside of a clinical setting and without talking to Dziekanski.

"In this particular situation, the diagnosis is not sure," said Lu.

RCMP Superintendent Wayne Rideout, who oversaw the homicide investigation into Dziekanski's death, was supposed to testify Monday, but instead he surprised the commission with notes the inquiry had not previously seen.

Rideout will return to testify on Wednesday.

The commission is expected to examine why the RCMP did not correct inaccurate information released in the wake of Dziekanski's death. Rideout will also be asked to testify about why civilian videotape that recorded the events surrounding Dziekanski's death was held by the RCMP for nearly two years.

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