On Justice for Annie Farlow

The following letter was sent today regarding the case of Annie Farlow. For more info, see www.anniefarlow.com and the Facebook group Justice for Annie. Those who share the concerns expressed in the letter, especially those in Ontario, are encouraged to contact their MLAs or the Premier about the case and express your concern.

The Honourable Rick Bartolucci
Ministry of Community Safety & Correctional Services
25 Grosvenor St,18th Flr
Toronto ON M7A 1Y6
Tel : 416-325-0408     Fax : 416-325-6067
Toll Free: 1-866-517-0571           2nd June, 2009.

Dear Mr. Bartolucci,

I am writing to you directly in the matter of the case of the death of Annie Farlow, a case with which I believe you are familiar. I am a university professor, a Canadian citizen, and was formerly a resident of Ontario, when I taught at Queen’s University in the 1990s. I have become familiar with many details from the case through my work as the founder and coordinator of the What Sorts of People Network, a large-scale, Canadian-based network of about 80 scholars, teachers, and community organizers with a focus on issues in which disability, health, and technology intersect. I have read and reviewed much about the Farlow case, including much of the correspondence that has passed between the Farlows, the hospital, and government offices, including your own. I have grave concerns about the case, some of which directly concern your Ministry, although they are not yet concerns about the Ministry as such.

While there are many aspects of the treatment and death of Annie Farlow in the country’s leading hospital for sick children that I believe should be of concern to the average Canadian citizen, my reason for writing is to convey to you directly my view that the position that your Office has taken regarding both the decision not to compel the Office of the Coroner to provide the Forensic Audit Report, and the subsequent decision to decline the parents’ request for a disinterment of their daughter’s body, should be reconsidered.

This is a case in which there are major and significant doubts about the cause of the death of an infant while under the care of the hospital, about the subsequent integrity of coroner’s own report, and about what appears to be an unlawful refusal by the coroner to provide information to which the family is lawfully entitled (section 18.2, Coroner’s Act of Ontario). A Forensic Audit done by the coroner is claimed, in several places in the official record, to provide a full accounting of missing narcotics in the case, as well as “further evidence that no active means were taken to bring about Annie’s death”. Does the Forensic Audit in fact do this? There appears to be a lethal dose of Fentanyl that remains unaccounted for—in likely violation of a number of the hospital’s own regulations and procedures—in the case. Explicit mention of this is missing in nearly all documentation I have seen. Does the Forensic Audit contain information about this? The questions are linked, and as the provision of the Forensic Audit Report itself would resolve both questions, and obviate the need for disinterment, it only deepens reasonable suspicions further to have a coroner unwilling to provide this document to the Farlows in accordance with the law of the Province.

I implore you, as the Minister to whom the Coroner’s Office is answerable, to reconsider your decisions in the December 2nd, 2008 letter signed by Deputy Minister xxxxxxxx on your behalf, and in your more recent (May 15th, 2009) response to the Farlows’ March 31st, 2009, request for disinterment. While those decisions are no doubt made in good faith, they likely rest on importantly incomplete or misleading information about the case. Moreover, providing the report (apart from correcting the coroner’s putative failure to follow the 18.2 of the Coroner’s Act), or granting the parental request for a disinterment, will significantly address growing public concerns that about both Annie’s death itself, and the integrity of the subsequent review processes subsequent to her death, of which your responses, action, and inaction, now form a part.

In both letters, and it seems in other communications with the parents, your office has relied primarily on information provided either by the Toronto Hospital for Sick Children, or the Coroner’s Office. For example, in your letter of May 20th, 2009, you say that you “have been advised by the Chief Coroner, Dr. xxxxxxx xxxxxxxxxx, that while a disinterment almost four years after the burial may be able to detect what narcotics were in your daughter’s system at the time of death, it would not be possible to ascertain how much of any particular narcotic was present.” If this is a reason for not granting the parental request for disinterment, as your letter presents it as being, it is a very bad reason. Detection of any Fentanyl in the body of Annie Farlow, whatever amount, would be decisive evidence, given other exigencies of the case, that she had been given Fentanyl shortly before her death, and that it was very likely the means through which she died. Although I am not a medical doctor, I believe that this is what an independent medical expert would say (having spoken with several). Why does the coroner not say that, or if he does, why does that not feature in your response to the Farlows?

In the earlier letter from Deputy Minister xxxxx, dated 2nd December, 2008, she says that “The [Pediatric Death Review] committee did recommend that a forensic audit be conducted into the use of narcotics at the Hospital for Sick Children’s Critical Care Unit. The audit was conducted with the conclusion that all narcotics had been accounted for on the days in question.” It is this conclusion, amongst others, that is called into question by the failure to provide the Forensic Audit Report itself. Thus, citing that an audit was done and putatively reached a certain conclusion cannot be the legitimate basis for refusing to provide the Forensic Audit Report itself, when such a conclusion is itself in question.

Since it is the apparent lack of lawful disclosure and good faith cooperation from these very institutions that is the basis for both the request for the Forensic Audit Report and for the disinterment, continued advisory reliance on them will now cast doubt on the overseeing role of your Ministry. To continue to draw on these institutions as a basis for your own judgments here is not only to be complicit in fanning further reasonable suspicion amongst the family and concerned citizens, but to fail to serve the public interest of both Ontario and Canada.

Yours sincerely,

Robert A. Wilson

cc. The Honourable Premier, Dalton McGuinty
cc. The Honourable Member, Howard Hampton

One thought on “On Justice for Annie Farlow

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

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