Justice With Dignity - Committee to Remember Kimberly Rogers


Kimberly Rogers Inquest Alerts

Woman’s ‘triple whammy’ of troubles led to suicide,
U of T expert testifies

by Keith Lacey
Northern Life

Thursday, November 21, 2002 -- 15:32



One of Canada’s leading suicide experts told a coroner’s jury the terms of a conditional jail sentence were directly related to the suicide of Kimberly Rogers.

Dr. Isaac Sakinofsky, a University of Toronto professor considered a leading expert on the causes of suicide, testified he believes Rogers started stockpiling hundreds of anti-depression pills only after she was sentenced because she had started contemplating suicide.

While Rogers was originally relieved at not being sent to jail, she “quickly realized it was not much better” being under house arrest while pregnant with no money and her welfare benefits cut off …, Sakinofsky testified.

“Her predicament led directly to the overdose and to her ending her life,” said Sakinofsky.

“She had a triple whammy. There was the charge, there was the conviction and then finding out her benefits were being cut off.”

Rogers was diagnosed with depression, panic attacks, insomnia, migraine headaches and the additional stress of being publicly humiliated, embarrassed and suffering another blow to her already low self-esteem contributed to her final solution, said Sakinofsky.

When asked by a juror if there was any possibility Rogers accidentally overdosed, Sakinofsky said he doesn’t believe that could have happened.

Rogers had ingested 13 times the recommended daily dose of 300 milligrams of amitriptyline, which isn’t an addictive drug, he said.

Contemplating suicide isn’t simply a matter of “yes or no, but includes shades across the spectrum”, he said.

He doesn’t know what the final “trigger” was to make Rogers take so many pills, but Sakinofsky believes Rogers made a decision she could no longer bear her life circumstances or face such a bleak future for herself and her child.

“At times you wonder if you can hold on or if life is worth living,” he said.

Cutting off welfare benefits to a pregnant woman under house arrest with no means of support can only be described as “catastrophic”, he said.

Sakinofsky was allowed to provide opinion evidence,* despite the strong and repeated objections of government lawyers.

Presiding coroner Dr. David Eden ruled Sakinofsky would be allowed to provide his opinion on any matter relating to the circumstances he believed led to the death of Rogers.

When Sakinofsky strayed off topic about legal matters and other issues, Eden cut him off in the middle of his answers on several occasions.

Studies show 90 per cent of all people who commit suicide suffer from at least one confirmed psychological diagnosis and the percentages increase when you have multiple disorders like Rogers did, he said.

The fact so many family, friend and social workers have testified Rogers seemed in such good spirits and was very much looking forward to having the baby doesn’t change his mind about her committing suicide, said Sakinofsky.

He believes Rogers was trying to fill a role and act a certain way to impress people she knew and was happy at times, he said.

But all the evidence indicates to him she was also depressed and suffering numerous psychological problems.

Many people considering suicide show similar signs of being content and happy just before the act because they’ve made up their mind and have made peace with their decision, he said.

A recent study of 750 single women on social assistance showed almost half were chronically depressed, said Sakinofsky.

Rogers was eight months pregnant when she was found dead during a blistering heat wave in her apartment, Aug. 9, 2001. The inquest has heard she had been dead for two or three days before her body was found.

Rogers was sentenced to six months of house arrest after pleading guilty to fraud over $5,000 for admitting to collecting $13,500 in welfare benefits while collecting $32,000 in student loans between the fall of 1996 and autumn of 1999.

After her conviction on April 25, 2001, Rogers had her welfare benefits automatically cut off by the provincial government for three months. A Toronto judge reinstated the benefits after a successful court challenge one month later.

The Tory government policy which suspends welfare benefits to those convicted of welfare fraud is unduly harsh and cruel, said Sakinofsky.

The inquest has heard Rogers and others like her, convicted of welfare fraud before April of 2001 had their benefits cut off for three months. Since then, a lifetime ban is in effect for anyone convicted of this crime.

“It’s draconian,” he said. “There’s an unthinking element that people can be put in this position.”

Statistics show it’s not common for women in their final trimester of pregnancy to take their own life, but that doesn’t change his opinion on the Rogers case, he said.

 

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