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Yukon has backlog of 20 deaths waiting for toxicology results

Yukon's chief coroner says there are 20 cases where a person has died but the cause of death cannot be officially determined.

Six-month delays are tough on families, says Yukon's acting chief coroner

Yukon's acting chief coroner says about 20 deaths in the territory have yet to see toxicology reports. The cause of death can not officially be declared in these cases until the tests arrive. (CBC)

Yukon's chief coroner says there are 20 cases in the territory where a person has died, but the cause of death cannot be officially determined yet.  

That's because toxicology tests — that detect and measure drugs or other substances in someone's system — take about six months. 

Heather Jones, acting chief coroner for Yukon, says the wait time is consistent throughout Canada. 

Yukon samples for toxicology reports are sent to B.C. for testing. Toxicologists in B.C say they saw an increase of 30 per cent in demands for toxicology reports in 2016, partly due to high numbers of cases involving fentanyl.

Jones says there isn't a way to jump the queue. The delay prevents families of the deceased from obtaining closure for months. 

"It affects families. We often don't have results for that period of time. It's a long wait for them." 

Impact of fentanyl on labs

Toxicology reports can be requested in any case, and is required when there are questions as to the cause of death. 

One question about delays is whether they affect public health departments' abilities to understand the scope of epidemics, such as fentanyl overdoses, and react quickly enough.

Jones says she cannot speculate as to whether any of the 20 outstanding cases in Yukon could involve fentanyl.  

Eight deaths have been linked to fentanyl in Yukon since April 2016.

The most recent fentanyl-related death confirmed was in summer of 2017.

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