Charles Smith, the Toronto Hospital for Sick Kids, and the Coroner’s Office

h/t to Harold Levy at The Charles Smith Blog, where more detail can be found:

Peter Kormos, justice critic for the NDP in Ontario, recently delivered a scathing indictment in the Ontario Legislature of the handling of the case of Dr. Charles Randal Smith, a paediatric pathologist (posing as a forensic pathologist) whose actions led to the wrongful imprisonment of many innocent people in relation to infant deaths that he investigated. Here is an excerpt–the story, as one might suspect, is not just about Smith:

This guy Smith, for 24 years, while working for the Hospital for Sick Kids just down the road, lied and bungled his way through countless prosecutions of people charged with injuring and, more tragically, killing children, babies-countless unjust convictions. We’re not talking about people who are sentenced to a couple of weekends in the local lockup; we’r e not talking about people who are sentenced to house arrest; we’re talking about people who, almost inevitably when you murder a child, are sentenced to penitentiary time, where they do what is called colloquially “hard time.” Let me tell you, when you’re a baby killer, you’re pretty darned close to the bottom of the ladder. Even in protective custody, you’re a victim. Some of those people have been successful in having their convictions overturned. None of them will ever be successful at having their losses restored.
What bothers me significantly is how Smith could flourish-he did for 24 years. Was his stellar batting record not of some concern to crown attorneys? Was his stellar capacity to indict and convict people accused of killing children not of concern to the police officers themselves, for fear that they had picked the wrong person to be charged? Was Smith’s capacity to find criminal culpability with the named accused not of concern to judges?

Smith didn’t work in a vacuum. What about the coroner? Wasn’t the coroner’s office concerned? During the course of, if not the first or the second or third of those 24 years, at least well into the 15- and 20-year range, wasn’t the coroner’s office a little concerned about how effective Smith was at providing evidence that supported the crown’s case and didn’t support the defence argument? What about his colleagues? What about other pathologists? What about other people in the medical profession? What about the Hospital for Sick Kids, who kept him in their employ?

These are all good questions. You can read the full legislature debate from Thursday, 24th May, 2009, on Bill 115 here, which contains Kormos’s detailed comments. In an April 2007 report from the Chief Coroner’s Office in Ontario, 44 of Smith’s autopsies were reviewed, with 20 found to be deeply problematic. These 20 were cited as evidence of more systematic problems by Goudge Inquiry, whose report was released on October 1, 2008.

Whether the Coroner’s Office stands at an appropriate distance from institutions like the hospital whose deaths it sometimes investigates is an issue in the case of Annie Farlow, which we’ve blogged on in the past. Join Justice for Annie on Facebook, or explore for more details.


One thought on “Charles Smith, the Toronto Hospital for Sick Kids, and the Coroner’s Office

  1. Pingback: What Would Darwin Do? « What Sorts of People

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