Paramedics tell inquest they were surprised that Vancouver woman who had stopped breathing wasn’t getting CPR

The paramedics called to attend to an individual not breathing at Vancouver jail arrived to see the woman lying on her back on the pavement surrounded by several jail and medical staff but not treating her.

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During the inquest, Rodrick MacKenzie, lawyer for the Coroner’s Service of B.C., asked paramedic Mike Burgwin if he was surprised that there was no CPR being done.

Burgwin answered yes. The inquest is on the death of Cheryl Ann Cowan, a 58-year old who had been picked up on a drunken break-and-enter/trespassing charge at her estranged husband’s Dunbar home on December 2014 and placed in a police transport van.

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CPR should be initiated before the arrival of the paramedics since they were all trained professionals.

After being placed in the police van for 48 minutes, Cowan was slumped in her seat without a pulse, bluish lips, fixed stare and low body temperature. In a video that was played at the inquest, she was seen being placed in a wheelchair and then on the ground.

According to paramedic Katelyn McRae, CPR should be initiated before the arrival of the paramedics since they were all trained professionals. It is a standard intervention for cardiac arrest.


According to the jail doctor, Dr. Brendan Russell, he testified to others that she is gone. A nurse testified that she asked the jail sergeant and the doctor if she should start CPR and was told not to, despite her inclination to do so.

The paramedics were able to resuscitate Cowan but remained on life support until she died 8 days later from lack of oxygen to the brain due to a heart attack.

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