Saturday, February 2, 2008

A Mystery Solved:

I always wondered who was the rat who told the Saskatchewan College of Physicians and Surgeons that Charles Smith had been investigated and ultimately reprimanded by its Ontario counterpart;

That mystery has been solved.

I found out from documents filed last week at the Goudge Inquiry that the rat is me.

It seems that the College was surprised to learn Dr. Smith had been in trouble with his own governing body from a story I reported in the Toronto Star on Sept. 24, 2005 under the heading. "Shamed MD finds new job."

The story, filed as an exhibit, indicated that Smith had been formally "cautioned" after being investigated in three cases - and a discipline committee had found "disturbing deficiencies" in his work in each of the cases.

Just two days later the Saskatchewan College informed Ontario that, "There appears to be a significant discrepancy between the information that he (Dr. Smith) provided to us, and the information that was recently published in the Toronto Star.

Bryan Salte, The Saskatchewan College's Legal Counsel and Associate Registrar, also told Ontario that Smith went on to answer the following questions with "No" in his application form:

0: Have you been suspended, disqualified, censured, or had any disciplinary action taken against you as a member of any profession?

0: Have you ever been the subject of an inquiry or investigation by a medical licensing authority or hospital?

0: Are you aware of any complaint or charge pending against you by any medical licensing authority which might result in your being suspended, reprimanded or otherwise disciplined?

In the aftermath of this story, Smith was hauled up before a discipline panel where he later pleaded guilty to misleading the Saskatchewan College.

(An investigator from the Ontario College has alleged at the Goudge Inquiry that Smith provided misleading information in his written responses to the three complaints);

In short, Dr. Smith continued lying - right through to 2005 - even after he quietly slipped away from the Hospital For Sick Children several weeks after former Ontario Chief Coroner, Dr. Barry McLellan, announced the independent review of his work.

Now the question arises whether Dr. Smith was lying when he was responding to questions posed Friday by Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons lawyer Carolyn Silver.

Here is Ms. Silver's cross-examination of Dr. Smith on the application:

"MS. CAROLYN SILVER: And when you applied to the Saskatchewan College you were asked several questions and you filled out a questionnaire, correct?


MS. CAROLYN SILVER: And one (1) of the questions you were asked was: "Have you ever been the subject of an inquiry or investigation by a medical licensing authority or a hospital?"


MS. CAROLYN SILVER: And you answered, "no", to that question, correct?

DR. CHARLES SMITH: That's correct.

MS. CAROLYN SILVER: And on your application you signed a solemn declaration swearing that that information was true, correct?

DR. CHARLES SMITH: That's correct.

MS. CAROLYN SILVER: And I'm suggesting to you, Dr. Smith, that you knew, when you answered no to that question, that you had been investigated by the College on at least three (3) occasions, if not four (4), because you were investigated twice in one (1) of the cases. Isn't that true? Hadn't forgotten about the College investigations, had you?

DR. CHARLES SMITH: No. No, the -- I -- I misinterpreted the question. I put down an answer that, at the time, I thought was correct. I recognized it's misleading. I --

MS. CAROLYN SILVER: It's not misleading, it's untruthful, isn't it, Dr. Smith?

DR. CHARLES SMITH: The -- the answer was wrong, I acknowledge that. And I -- and I acknowledge it was wrong and it -- and it was misleading. But I remain firm, resolute, in my -- in my position that it was never an intentional mistake, though I recognize it was a serious mistake.

MS. CAROLYN SILVER: You know when you filled out this application in 2005, that you'd been the subject of at least three (3) investigations by the College, didn't you, Dr. Smith?

DR. CHARLES SMITH: I knew that the College had dealt with -- with complaints, yes; considered them, dismissed them --

MS. CAROLYN SILVER: You knew they were investigations, Dr. Smith. You have countless letters from the College asking you to respond --


MS. CAROLYN SILVER: -- in the course of the investigation. So to be fair, Dr. Smith, didn't you know these were investigations by the College?

DR. CHARLES SMITH: Yes, but I -- I misunderstood, or misinterpreted the question. I recognize that was a error. I did -- I -- at the time I answered that, I had not given my mind to that issue. It was a mistake, I recognize it, I'm embarrassed by it. I -- I have -- I have admitted to it. But --

Ms. Silver then attempted to get an honest response to another of the Saskatchewan College's questions: The transcript reads:

MS. CAROLYN SILVER: You were also asked if you were suspended, disqualified or censured by any -- any action was taken against you. Do you see that? Have you ever been suspended, disqualified, censured or has any discipline action been taken against you as a member of any profession?"

DR. CHARLES SMITH: I -- I've been cautioned, is that -- is that --

MS. CAROLYN SILVER: Right. You didn't understand that was a censure?


DR. CHARLES SMITH: No, I -- no. No, I'm not -- I would -- I would -- I -- no, no. I recognize it was a caution, it was serious. I respected the College, I submitted myself to the caution -- to the caution. I did not take it at all lightly. I believe I indicated that -- that I regarded it well with embarrassment as -- as an important educational exercise, and I explained that in fact though I was embarrassed by it, I had used it as a teaching point for others as had others. But I -- I don't know that I have ever linked the word censure and a caution as being the same thing. And -- and if -- if should have been linked, I am -- I am sorry. I didn't understand that and that would
me my mistake if they should be linked."

Towards the end of her cross-exmination, Silver attempted to engage Dr. Smith on his respect for the College - suggesting that a pattern of repeated lies does not exactly fit the definition of respect: Here is the transcript:

"MS. CAROLYN SILVER: -- and I'm suggesting to you that this completely untruthful and inaccurate answer that you gave to the College of Saskatchewan in 2005 when you told them you had never been the subject of an inquiry or an investigation by a medical licensing authority, was just one (1) of a pattern that had -- that you had of giving untruthful and inaccurate information to the regulatory body, and those are the examples that we've looked at. Isn't that true, Dr. Smith? It's just another example that continued into 2005?

DR. CHARLES SMITH: I'm sorry, your que - I -- I missed the first part of your question.

MS. CAROLYN SILVER: Wasn't -- you say you respect the regulatory --


MS. CAROLYN SILVER: -- body --


MS. CAROLYN SILVER: -- and I'm suggesting to you that that respect is not manifest, because you had a pattern which ran from 1992 and continued until 2005 with the Saskatchewan College of providing untruthful and inaccurate information to the regulatory body. Isn't that true, Dr. Smith?


MS. CAROLYN SILVER: That occurred on many occasions.

DR. CHARLES SMITH: No. That's your view. It was never my intention to be disrespectful or to be misleading.

MS. CAROLYN SILVER: But you were untruthful and misleading on many occasions, intention or not, isn't that true?

DR. CHARLES SMITH: I recognize I made mistakes and I recognize before the -- and I -- I pleaded before the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Saskatchewan, that what I did was misleading. I recognize that. I accept that. I stand by that -- by
that statement.

MS. CAROLYN SILVER: Those are my questions. Thank you."

I know that reporters are supposed to be flies on the wall and detached from the story.

But that said, I am very pleased that this story was noticed by the medical authorities in Saskatchewan and triggered some consequences.

No wonder Dr. Smith described me in an email to former Chief Coroner Dr. James Young as, "Harold Levy (who is not my favourite journalist)";

That's the best compliment I could ever ask for.