Today would have been his 48th birthday but instead his family gathered by his grave, under the warm spring sunshine almost twenty five years since his passing to replace a less accurate head stone. He was only twenty three, serving with Canadian forces in Rwanda, when corporal Scott Fraser smith died by suicide.
While serving in the forces, his family says he was given the anti-malarial drug Mefloquin and it is to blame for his death. He’s not the only veteran who says the drug has caused problems. Phillip Scott Brooks was also given Mefloquin while serving in the forces and he says it caused disturbing dreams and suicidal thoughts.
A new series of lawsuits expected to be filed this week against the Canadian government alleging they were poisoned by military issued Mefloquin. Smith’s family is not involved in the lawsuits but his aunt says she hopes an acknowledgement of the dangers of Mefloquin will be part of his legacy.
In the 1990s mefloquine was commonly prescribed to Canadian soldiers before being deployed to areas were malaria was prevalent. But it is no longer used as a preferred medication. A 2017 health Canada report found limited evidence that it can cause long and permanent effects, the company that makes Mefloquin attaches a warning label on the drug cautioning against potential long terms side effects.
Canada isn’t the only country with veterans concerned about Mefloquin. It’s use has been scrutinized in the US and other countries around the world.