Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Susan Nelles: (Part 2); Maclean's magazine story on Hamilton book: "The Baby Killer At Toronto Sick Kids Was Rubber;"

PUBLISHER'S VIEW: I am pleased to have the opportunity to devote some space to a newly published book: "The Nurses Are Innocent: The Digoxin Poisoning Fallacy," by Gavin Hamilton M.D. The title refers to the investigation of the deaths of babies at the Hospital for Sick Children in 1980 and 1981 for which a nurse named Susan Nelles was charged with murder. (My first free-lance story for the Toronto Star described Ms. Nelle's discharge at her preliminary hearing). I later wrote in the Star about the public inquiry in which Justice Samuel Grange found that babies had been murdered in spite of testimony which shredded the validity of digoxin tests conducted by Ontario's Centre for Forensic Sciences and raised a significant doubt as to whether any babies had been murdered. Now Dr. Hamilton, a retired radiologist, has, at least in my mind, provided the real reason for the deaths of the unfortunate babies at the renowned hospital: A toxin found in natural rubber which is technically like digoxin, which was used in disposable plastic syringes and intravenous devices. As the late Dr. Peter Macklem, the above noted witness at the Grange Inquiry, says in his preface to this book: "What can be learned from this black stain on Canada's judicial system? One lesson certainly stands out: We cannot ever again allow a group of unqualified amateur diagnosticians to make life and death decisions about such important matters as potential serial murders." Dr. Macklem's comments have me thinking about the so-called arson experts in Texas who concluded with such compelling certainty that Cameron Todd Willingham had set the fire which killed his family - and were proven to have been so terribly, terribly wrong. (Willingham, an innocent man, was executed in Texas). Dr. Hamilton also has a tantalizing theory that a certain now-disgraced pathologist named Charles Smith may have been responsible for turning the tragic deaths into murders. He points out that "In 1980 - which was at the beginning of what was to become known as the digoxin baby poisoning epidemic period, he was hired by the Hospital for Sick Children as an anatomic pathologist - with an expressed keen interest in performing autopsies on children who had died suddenly." (More about that in another post); This book can be purchased through Amazon at:


Harold Levy: Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog


STORY: Maclean's Magazine: The Baby Killer At Toronto's Sick Kids was Rubber," by Brian Bethune; Published on December 22, 2011.

GIST: "So what really happened to those children? A cluster of factors, according to Hamilton. They were very sick, and it took only the tiniest of nudges—natural or deliberate—to push them across death’s threshold. And that push was coming with increasing force. MBT, a chemical compound in the rubber seals used in IV lines and disposable plastic syringes, was leeching into the contents of those devices, bringing chances of life-threatening anaphylactic shock—which is how Hamilton, a radiologist from London, Ont., encountered it—and of death by accumulated toxins. The problem grew, unseen, as the era of unit-dose syringes dawned around 1980. Designed to eliminate overdose errors, prepackaged unit doses had three-year shelf lives—all the longer for the MBT to leech into the contents. The smallest, most fragile patients, the cardiac babies, were most at risk: more injections, more transfusions, more poison, more chances of crossing the threshold. And if circumstances were cruelly conspiring against the children, so too were they taking aim at the accused nurses. The tests used to measure the digoxin levels in the autopsied babies were less than useless. They consistently misread MBT as digoxin, and failed to take into account that digoxin in the hearts of cardiac patients spreads through the body postmortem, giving a false reading of how much was present during life."



PUBLISHER'S NOTE: The Toronto Star, my previous employer for more than twenty incredible years, has put considerable effort into exposing the harm caused by Dr. Charles Smith and his protectors - and into pushing for reform of Ontario's forensic pediatric pathology system. The Star has a "topic" section which focuses on recent stories related to Dr. Charles Smith. It can be found at:


Information on "The Charles Smith Blog Award"- and its nomination process - can be found at:


Harold Levy: Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog; hlevy15@gmail.com;