The coroners at the heart of the crisis of the fentanyl

News 1 October, 2017
  • Photo Stevens LeBlanc
    “Do better, do faster “, this is what repeats to his colleagues the chief coroner of Québec, Catherine Rudel-Tessier, in order to reduce the time of investigations. The new hires will help, even if the crisis is fentanyl, is seeking a lot of resources.

    Nicolas Saillant

    Sunday, 1 October 2017 00:00

    Sunday, 1 October 2017 00:00

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    Quebec just has to hire 25 new coroners act, in order to reduce the time of the investigations which are the subject of the cases of fatality in overdose of fentanyl, which multiply in the province.

    At the center of the crisis is fentanyl, which is now impacting on the Québec, the Bureau is working hard to speed up the processing of blood samples to accurately determine which drug is responsible for a fatality in overdose.

    “We participate in it. We work a lot with public Health. We participate in the vigil and to the epidemiological investigation, ” says the chief coroner Catherine Rudel-Tessier. The watchman comes down to examine the cases of drug overdose to be lethal to determine whether there is probable case of poisoning by fentanyl.

    However, only the toxicological analysis may allow to conclude or not to a poisoning. We must, however, wait several weeks, currently, before getting the results.

    “With our laboratory, the CTQ [Center of toxicology of Quebec], we want to speed up the processing of blood samples for that, in fact, public Health has confirmations promptly,” explain to Me Rudel-Tessier, given the goal of obtaining the results of the analyses are known in less than four weeks.

    “It’s difficult, but it would allow you to react more quickly “, both on the side of public Health and of the police, for, perhaps, traced.

    Reduce the time to six months

    A few months before the entry into office of the current chief coroner, the ombudsperson had issued a report “hard enough” in the place of the Quebec coroner’s Office, saying that a lengthy investigation had ” far-reaching consequences on the bereaved families “.

    The mandate given to Me Rudel-Tessier in 2015, therefore, was clear : get these time limits from 12.2 months to less than six months.

    The chief coroner has therefore put to the task by launching a call for applications, it has been almost a year, to inflate the number of coroners. While there were a hundred of coroners in the years 2000, of which 10 are full-time, only sixty were still active in the last few years.

    Lack in areas

    Three coroners are full time so come in reinforcement from the 5 of September, while 22 new coroners part – time lawyers, doctors or notaries have been appointed and are currently completing their training. “There are still remote areas where there is a lack of coroners, the Gaspé, the North Shore soon, Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean and Nord-du-Québec “, says Me Rudel-Tessier, which provides for other appointments for specific regions.

    The brigade of 85 coroners act, quebec is not yet sufficient to allow to reduce the time of investigation in six months, as in the wishes Me to Rudel-Tessier.

    In short

    • 78 coroners part-time currently
    • 7 full-time
    • The chief coroner Catherine Rudel-Tessier

    Average time


    • 12.2 months (15.1 months for investigation, with autopsy and expertise)

    July 2017

    • 8.3 months


    • Reduce this period to six months 4518 investigations in 2016 (7 % of deaths in Quebec)