Sunday, April 13, 2008

Part Sixteen: Closing Submissions; Affected Families Allege Former Chief Coroner Failed To Practice What He Preached In Maclean's Interview;

This Blog is currently focusing on the submissions filed by the "Affected Families Group" - a group of families who were directly affected by the systemic failings which occurred in pediatric forensic pathology in Ontario between 1991 and 2001;

The Group is represented by lawyers Peter Wardle (Wardle, Daley, Bernstein) and Julie M. Kirkpatrick;

Today's focus is on a section in which the group argues that former Chief Coroner, Dr. James Young, failed to practice what he preached in an interview he gave to Macleans Magazine;

"While the reviews were underway information continued to emerge which should have raised red flags for the Chief Coroner's Office," the section begins;

"On May 14, 2001 Maclean’s Magazine published an article entitled “Dead Wrong,” it continues;

"The article described Dr. Smith’s errors in the Amber, Nicholas, Sharon and Tyrell cases.

It quoted in detail from the decision of Justice Dunn.

Dr. Young saw the article but claims not to have closely reviewed the section relating the Justice Dunn’s decision.

He considered the article to be unfair to Dr. Smith.

He subsequently wrote a letter to a member of the public describing the article as “Dead Wrong”.

At around the same time Dr. Young agreed to attempt to seek reimbursement for Dr. Smith in his costs for suing Macleans.

Dr. Young is quoted by Maclean’s in the article as stating the following: “Expert opinion is never a matter of right and wrong. A lot of people assume that one person is wrong and one person is right and it just isn’t that straightforward. These are opinions.”

Dr. Young’s letter to Mr. Lockyer dated March 30, 2001 raises similar issues.

In that letter Dr. Young described the standard of reviewing experts and their opinions as involving four issues, as follows:

0: Did the expert appear to be unbiased?

0: Was the expert willing to consider further information and modify his opinion?

0: Did the expert testify within the area of his expertise?

0: Did the expert hold opinions that would fall into a broad range of acceptable opinions within a particular field?

With respect to (the last) issue, Dr. Young noted “it is not simply a matter of finding another expert who would agree or disagree with the expert’s opinion”.

Here is one of the real tragedies of the Smith era in pediatric forensic pathology – having identified accurately a number of important principles relating to expert opinion,

Dr. Young never seriously considered their application to Dr. Smith, either prior to 2001 or thereafter."