Wednesday, September 26, 2007

"Fall from Grace": An insightful documentary;

The CBC's insightful documentary on Charles Smith, aptly entitled "Fall From Grace" was broadcast on the National on Sept. 4, 2007.

Produced by Anita Mielewczyk and hosted by Maureen Taylor, "Fall From Grace" set out to answer the question "How and why did Ontario pathologist Dr. Charles Smith prepare autopsies that wrongly implicated at least twelve parents in the deaths of their children. Taylor gives her personal perspective in a fascinating "field note" published on the National's Web site.

"Dr. Charles Smith remains an enigma," Taylor says.

"Of course, we set out to delve right into his innermost thoughts, to understand what motivated him as he pursued people he thought were child abusers, with sometimes tragic consequences.
What we have, are clues.

With painstaking research by producer, Anita Mielewczyk, we were able to piece together Dr. Smith's career as a pathologist. For me, the most surprising information Anita uncovered was Dr. Smith's link to the infamous murder investigations in 1981 at the Hospital for Sick Children, where Nurse Susan Nelles was wrongfully accused of killing 4 babies with an overdose of a heart drug.

These were among the first autopsies Dr. Smith ever performed, and although there is no evidence that his work was anything but professional, it does make one wonder how that experience may have shaped his approach to suspicious deaths over the next 26 years.

We always strive for balance in these stories. Families who were wrongly accused because of Dr. Smith's reports are critical of those at the Chief Coroner's Office who were supervising Smith. They want answers, accountability. Perhaps they'll get those answers at the public inquiry the Ontario government has called.

Unfortunately, our requests for interviews with the people at the coroner's office were turned down.

Above all, when I heard the pain in the voices of the parents who had been wrongly accused of killing their children, based on evidence from Charles Smith, I realized how important it is not to rush to judgement.

There is a reason our justice system is based on the principle of innocent until proven guilty. Even those in positions of power, knowledge and authority, can still get it very, very wrong."

Harold levy