By MICHELE MANDEL, Toronto Sun
Last Updated: January 26, 2011 8:11pm
It’s time Charles Smith is stripped of the Dr. in front of his name.
Blamed for so many wrongful convictions still winding their way through the Ontario Court of Appeal, vilified by a judicial inquiry that slammed his incompetence, Smith finally has a date with Ontario’s College of Physicians and Surgeons next week where he will be hauled in front of a disciplinary committee.
It’s about time they threw the book at him.
According to the notice posted on the medical regulator’s website, “It is alleged that Dr. Smith is incompetent, fell below the standard of care and engaged in disgraceful, dishonourable or unprofessional conduct in his practice of pathology and his work providing expert opinion evidence in relation thereto.”
How many lives have been ruined by his erroneous conclusions that loving parents and dutiful caregivers were, in fact, cold-blooded murderers? How many innocent people who felt they had no option but to plead guilty in the face of Smith’s God-like reputation?
Just last week, almost two decades after Smith wrongly implicated him in the death of his five-week-old son, Dinesh Kumar was finally exonerated by the appeal court .
“It was a reputation that went beyond police and Crowns and judges,” his lawyer James Lockyer said of Smith’s testimony. “It even seemed to affect defence lawyers of the day: ‘If Smith said something, it was almost bound to be right.’”
If found guilty during the one-day hearing Feb. 1, Smith could be stripped of his licence to practise medicine. In reality, he hasn’t practised since Aug. 9, 2008, when he failed to renew his expired registration with the College.
He must have known it would be an uphill battle.
Once renowned as one of Canada’s pre-eminent forensic child pathologists, his word treated as gospel, Smith conducted more than 1,000 autopsies on children in his 24 years at Sick Kids.
A religious zealot who saw himself as a crusader for dead children, he too often saw foul play where there was only the cruelty of happenstance. And despite his much heralded expertise, it turned out that he wasn’t very well trained at all.
The chinks in his armour began as early as 1991 with the first of many complaints to the College.
The parents of a 12-year-old Timmins babysitter reported him after she was acquitted of manslaughter. Smith had wrongly accused her of shaking a toddler to death.
While questions continued to mount about his competence, his superiors in the Ontario coroner’s office failed to take him to task. For another 14 years, Smith’s incompetence continued to help send innocent people to prison.
In 2005, the criticism hard to ignore, a new Ontario chief coroner called for a review of 45 child autopsies where Smith determined the cause of death was either murder or criminally suspicious. Two years later, outside experts found Smith had major scientific errors in 20 cases — 13 of which had resulted in criminal convictions.
A judicial inquiry was called and the College of Physicians and Surgeons agreed to a request by Justice Stephen Goudge to allow his investigation to proceed before the medical regulator launched its own.
In his damning report, Goudge blasted Smith for having “actively misled” his superiors, “made false and misleading statements” in court and lacked “basic knowledge” about forensic pathology.
Among his many errors: William Mullins-Johnson, who spent 12 years in prison after being wrongly convicted of raping and murdering his four-year-old niece in Sault Ste. Marie. The child had likely died of natural causes.
Single mom Louise Reynolds of Kingston was charged with murdering her daughter after Smith concluded the seven-year old had been stabbed more than 80 times with scissors. Experts later concluded she’d been mauled by a dog.
All Smith could offer was a tearful apology.
Two years after the Goudge Report, College spokesman Kathryn Clarke said the medical authority has completed its own inquiry and referred Smith to Tuesday’s disciplinary hearing.
“The findings by Goudge are so damning, I don’t see a way out for him,” Lockyer said.
Smith doesn’t have to appear in person. But after ruining so many lives, the least the arrogant disgraced pathologist can do is take his medicine like a man.
Read Mandel Wednesday through Saturday. email@example.com or 416-947-2231
College to decide professional fate of disgraced doctor Charles Smith
From Wednesday’s Globe and Mail
Published Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2011 8:16AM EST
Last updated Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2011 9:20AM EST
Disgraced pathologist Charles Smith’s professional future will be officially decided next week when he stands before a disciplinary committee of Ontario’s College of Physicians and Surgeons.
Dr. Smith, whose erroneous expert evidence and testimony contributed to more than a dozen criminal charges, many of which resulted in wrongful convictions, will have to answer on Tuesday to allegations that he is incompetent and acted in a manner that would be regarded as “disgraceful, dishonourable and unprofessional.”
The college, which governs the conduct of doctors in the province, had held off investigating Dr. Smith while a public inquiry, headed by Mr. Justice Stephen Goudge of the Ontario Court of Appeal, conducted a year-and-half-long probe into the pathologist and his superiors in the Office of the Chief Coroner. In a final report released in October, 2008, Judge Goudge concluded that the doctor’s findings – most of which were made in connection with the deaths of babies and infants and often resulted in parents losing custody of other children – “defied logic” and were “simply baffling.”
It’s not clear what arguments, if any, Dr. Smith is prepared to offer in his defence. When he testified before the public inquiry, he stated that his mistakes were not intentional. He also made a tearful apology to William Mullins-Johnson, who spent 12 years in jail after being wrongfully convicted of sodomizing and murdering his four-year-old niece. Dr. Smith’s lawyer, Niels Ortved, declined to comment about what the pathologist is expected to say.
There are a range of penalties that Dr. Smith could face from the panel: His certification could be revoked completely, or merely suspended for a specified period of time; he could be required to pay a fine to the provincial government of not more than $35,000. He has been unable to practise medicine for nearly three years. He agreed to stop practising shortly after Judge Goudge’s probe commenced, and then later resigned his licence, said Kathryn Clarke, a spokeswoman for the College of Physicians and Surgeons.
In October, Ontario’s provincial Liberal government announced that Mr. Mullins-Johnson would receive $4.25-million in compensation. Earlier in August, the government pledged a maximum of $250,000 to the victims in the other cases examined by Judge Goudge.