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Choked to death by hospital guards, for wearing a Covid mask too low


MAY 27, 2023 marked three years since the death of Stephanie Warriner. A coroner’s report records that this was the result of brain injuries consistent with ‘restraint asphyxia following struggle and exertion’, suffered more than two weeks earlier whilst a patient at Toronto General Hospital (TGH), Ontario. Stephanie’s alleged crime was failing to wear a Covid face mask properly. I recommend pausing to take that in.

Stephanie, 43, was a slight figure, 5ft 5in and 120lb. Having experienced long-term mental illness, including bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), the mother of five was admitted to TGH on May 10 with what a civil suit filed by her family describes as a ‘productive cough’. A Covid test had been negative. Having gone in search of a sandwich in the early hours of May 11, she was confronted aggressively by five personnel, four of them security guards, about her improper use of a face mask, which they said was worn too low.

As recorded in the civil suit document, after being ‘berated’ and ‘demeaned’ by guards, Stephanie was forced towards a wall, thrown to the ground and restrained, with weight applied to her back. During this time she was forced into handcuffs. Once the guards removed their weight from her back, she was seen to be ‘limp and lifeless’ but they did not attempt resuscitation or call for help. Instead, they placed her in a wheelchair and removed her from the view of security cameras and witnesses. 

About ten minutes later the guards, moving her body into an elevator bay, attempted to resuscitate her but, as the coroner’s report noted, because of the ‘downtime’ between the damage being incurred and measures being taken, she developed a brain injury from which she never recovered.

The majority of the incident was captured on CCTV and may be viewed here. (You will notice that during recording, the CCTV camera appears to be moved. More about this later.) As a result of the restraint, Stephanie went into cardiac arrest, but did not die immediately. In fact, she lived for another 16 days, being first intubated and placed in intensive care and then transferred to Toronto Western Hospital on May 15. No attempt was made to contact her family until May 22, a full 11 days after the incident.

In July, two of the guards were dismissed and two were the subject of unspecified ‘internal disciplinary action’. According to a media report, at this time Toronto police said investigators were ‘awaiting the results of a full autopsy and that the case was in its early stages’. Five months later Stephanie’s sister, Denise, was still awaiting information from the police. Finally, in early December 2020, two guards were each charged with two counts of criminal negligence causing death and one count of manslaughter.

In November, 2022, two and a half years after Stephanie’s death, an Ontario judge quashed the case against the two guards, due to come before a jury last month, saying there was ‘a lack of admissible evidence to support the findings necessary for making a placement order on both counts’. Subsequently, the Federal government declined to pursue further criminal action. This despite the coroner’s report and other evidence, such as the CCTV video and court documents submitted by the Crown for an earlier preliminary hearing which contain evidence that one of the guards lied in his deposition, having initially claimed that Stephanie had ‘delivered several overhand and underhand punches to [Guard A’s] face and was kicking her feet’, but then ‘later on, [Guard B] began sobbing and admitted he had not been truthful in the report, saying: “I’m sorry. I would have never said the things I said in there if I knew there was a video”.’

Speaking of the CCTV footage, over two minutes of it has never been seen – and never will be. During Stephanie’s interrogation and restraint the camera was intentionally moved to point elsewhere. The guard monitoring the CCTV from the security office claimed that he ‘suffers from anxiety’ and moved the camera because he was ‘anxious and concerned about the altercation and use of force between [Guard A] and Stephanie’. In their civil suit, her family make it clear that they believe the camera was moved to ‘shield the other defendant guards from any potential criminal liability’.

This tragedy was the direct result of the febrile atmosphere and enforcement of unevidenced, irrational and petty Covid mask rules. Contrast Stephanie’s case with that of George Floyd, a black man who died in police custody that same month in Minneapolis. Protests were everywhere across the US and the entire world. Movements such as Black Lives Matter (BLM) sprang up. People were ‘taking the knee’ and filling their social media profiles with BLM images. There were calls for police forces to be defunded. Floyd himself achieved something close to beatification, with statues and wall paintings appearing widely. His police attackers received hefty prison sentences.

Stephanie Warriner? Nothing. Not a squeak. Because of a police and judicial embargo, it was barely a month ago that the public could even see the video and read about her death. Those who were implicated have walked free. And the health network which owns Toronto General and Toronto Western hospitals still tells us on its website that ‘in 2019, Toronto General was named among the world’s Top 10 Hospitals by Newsweek magazine’. It insists that its priorities include being ‘compassionate and caring’ with a focus on ‘quality and safety’.

Stephanie Warriner died, at the age of 43, for wearing a Covid face mask improperly. This in the very same city of Toronto where nurses unions’ had twice – in 2015 and 2018 – won cases against hospitals seeking to mask them at work over influenza, with the evidence in favour of masking ruled ‘insufficient, inadequate and completely unpersuasive’. As with so much harm which has been done to so many people in the name of ‘safety’ these past three years, it appears no one in authority questions this, much less cares.

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Paul Stevens
Paul Stevens
Paul Stevens is a historian of the English Tudor period and member of Smile Free, which has campaigned for the end of mask mandates in the UK.

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