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Fired health ministry employee's death ruled a suicide

The death of an employee fired last fall from the B.C. Ministry of Health has been officially ruled a suicide.

Roderick MacIsaac, 46, was a University of Victoria doctoral student on a work term at the ministry when he and others were fired or suspended as part of an investigation then minister Margaret MacDiarmid said involved improper data sharing, contracts and conflicts of interest. The firings came to light in September 2012.

A coroner's report released today found that MacIsaac took his own life at home on Dec. 8, 2012. His body was discovered a month later, after acquaintances and family expressed concern for his well-being.

The report noted that MacIsaac "had been experiencing significant personal stress commencing at the end of August 2012 related to occupational and academic matters that had arisen in his life." MacIsaac used his computer the night before his death, and he was working on a document "relating to the events that were causing him significant stress," it said.

As reported earlier by The Tyee, MacIsaac's job involved assessing the effectiveness of the government's smoking cessation program. In September 2011, Christy Clark's government began to pay for prescription drugs and nicotine replacement therapies that help people quit smoking.

Others affected by the investigation, including six besides MacIsaac who were fired, were involved in various research projects aimed at saving the public money on drugs, work that could impact drug company profits.

A spokesperson for the health ministry said today that the investigation into the allegations against the employees is "winding down" and could be completed in coming weeks.

The firings have led to at least five lawsuits against the government alleging wrongful dismissal and defamation. The BCGEU pursued a grievance process on behalf of three employees, including MacIsaac, who were union members.

In his claim, researcher Bill Warburton alleges the province fired him in order to "end the investigation of harmful effects of drugs which risk leading to diminishing payments to their political contributors."

The government cancelled a $1-a-year contract that had given Warburton access to a wide range of health and drug data.

Robyn Smith is an editor at The Tyee. With files from Andrew MacLeod.

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