Dismissed B.C. health ministry researcher's death officially ruled a suicide
For months, Alan Cassels, a drug-policy expert with the University of Victoria, has stared at a sticky note attached to his computer. “Who killed Roderick MacIsaac?” it reads.
Today (October 10), the B.C. Coroners Service officially ruled the death of Harold Roderick MacIsaac a suicide.
The body of the 46-year-old pharmaceutical researcher was found on January 8, 2013. The cause of death was hypoxia due to carbon-monoxide poisoning.
According to the coroner’s report, MacIsaac shut himself in a small room, placed towels under two doors, and started a gas-powered generator. The machine ran until its fuel was exhausted.
An examination by the RCMP revealed that those events occurred on December 8, 2012. It was one month before authorities found his body.
MacIsaac was one of seven pharmaceutical researchers fired by the B.C. Ministry of Health in September 2012. The ministry has accused those individuals of alleged misconduct related to data-management practices, though the circumstances of those dismissals have never been fully explained. (All seven fired employees subsequently filed lawsuits against the ministry, claiming wrongful dismissal.)
The coroner’s report states: “Mr. MacIsaac had been experiencing significant personal stress commencing the end of August 2012 related to occupational and academic matters that had arisen in his life.”
When MacIsaac was relieved of his position at the health ministry he was a co-op student, only three days away from completing research required for his PhD.
In a telephone interview, Cassels, who’s closely monitored events surrounding the Ministry of Health firings, gave his reaction to the coroner’s report on MacIsaac.
“I think this answers the question of what killed Rod MacIsaac,” Cassels told the Straight. “The bigger question I have is, who killed Roderick MacIsaac?
“I think it’s a tragedy,” he continued. “The firing, I think, it was a catalyst. That’s the conclusion that I think any person with common sense would come to.”
Cassels said there are still many questions left unanswered.
“Why would the ministry fire a co-op student with three days left in their term?” he asked. “I don’t think anyone has come out with an adequate response to that. And I don’t think the family has had an adequate response to that question either.”
The B.C. Ministry of Health did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Since late August 2013, the ministry has refused seven requests submitted by the Straight for an interview on the topic of the researchers’ alleged misconduct.
Editor's note: Do you need help? You can contact the Crisis Intervention and Suicide Prevention Centre of British Columbia for support anytime.