Part Sixteen: Think Dirty; Another Way To Convict Parents: Say They tried To Poison Their Children With Salt; Sir Roy's Research;
"MOST OF THE CHILDREN SUFFERED REPETITIVE POISONING BEFORE DETECTION.
THE PERPETRATOR WAS BELIEVED TO THE MOTHER FOR 10 CHILDREN, THE FATHER FOR ONE, AND EITHER PARENT FOR ONE.
FOUR CHILDREN HAD SERUM SODIUM CONCENTRATIONS ABOVE 200 MMOL/L."
DR. ROY MEADOW; FORM ABSTRACT FOR PAPER "NON-ACCIDENTAL SALT POISONING; -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
It could almost be a scenario for a science fiction movie;
Three-year-old boy inexplicably dies.
The bewildered couple that were planning to adopt him theorize that the part of the brain that controls the salt-water balance in the body has malfunctioned;
However public officials decide the couple has murdered the child by feeding him an overdose of salt.
They rely on the writings of a famed physician whose research indicates that there have been multiple cases of murder in which the murder weapon is salt.
Thanks to his brilliance society can convict such treacherous parents and avert the perfect crime.
The parents are then arrested and charged with murder - and..........
This happened to an English couple named Ian and Angela Gay.
The physician is Dr Roy Meadow whose research has led to other innocent parents and caregivers being charged with killing children.
By way of brief background, consider the following account in Wikipedia;
"In the 2005 trial of Ian and Angela Gay over the death of their adopted son Christian, the prosecution relied heavily upon Meadow's 1993 paper "Non-accidental salt poisoning", citing it many times throughout the trial," the account begins.
"The judge also referred to the paper citing it five times during his summing up" it continues.
"Ian and Angela Gay were found guilty of manslaughter and spent 15 months in prison before their convictions were quashed.
In interviews for BBC Radio 4's File on 4 programme, Professor Jean Golding and Professor Ashley Grossman both questioned the reliability of the Meadow paper.
The naturally occurring condition diabetes insipidus was suggested as a more likely cause of an elevated salt level than deliberate salt poisoning."
Also consider the following abstract of an article by Dr. Meadow of the Department of Pediatrics and Child Health, St. James University Hospital, Leeds, entitled ""Non-accidental salt poisoning;"
"The clinical features of 12 children who incurred non-accidental salt poisoning are reported," the abstract, published in Archives of Disease in Childhood, Volume 68, begins.
"The children usually presented to hospital in the first six months of life with unexplained hypernatraemia and associated illness," it continues;
"Most of the children suffered repetitive poisoning before detection.
The perpetrator was believed to the mother for 10 children, the father for one, and either parent for one.
Four children had serum sodium concentrations above 200 mmol/l.
Seven children had incurred other fabricated illness, drug ingestion, physical abuse, or failure to thrive/neglect.
Two children died; the other 10 remained healthy in alternative care.
Features are described that should lead to earlier detection of salt poisoning; the importance of checking urine sodium excretion, whenever hypernatraemia occurs, is stressed."
My interest in forensic pathology began with my Toronto Star investigative reporting into once famed since disgraced former doctor Charles Smith. I began this Blog after retiring from the Star in 2006 in order to follow the aftermath into the independent Goudge inquiry into many of Smith's cases. I have now begun to focus on cases involving flawed forensic science no matter where they occur (the recent Amanda Knox prosecution in Italy, for example) and am fascinated by the interest in the Blog from people in countries throughout the world. In another development, my interest in "junk science" "pseudo-experts" and the miscarriages of justice they all too often cause has drawn me deeply into the on-going U.S. death penalty debate where so many troubling cases involve issues relating to DNA and other developments in the world of forensic science. For all of this I rely on my experience as a reporter at the Toronto Star, my work as a lawyer in Ontario's criminal courts, and my abhorrence of injustice. Please send cases and developments which may be of interest to this Blog to firstname.lastname@example.org. Read on! Harold Levy.