Pubdate: Thu, 16 Apr 2015
Source: Toronto Star (CN ON)
Copyright: 2015 The Toronto Star
Author: Rachel Mendleson
Page: GT1


Lawyer suggests Sick Kids may 'have discovered more problems'

The "stakes are too high" to allow the Hospital for Sick Children's
Motherisk laboratory to perform hair drug and alcohol tests for use in
court, the Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted (AIDWYC)

In a letter to retired Appeal Court Justice Susan Lang, who is probing
the reliability of five years' worth of drug tests on hair conducted
by Motherisk, AIDWYC's James Lockyer argues that such analysis should
only be done in a forensic lab, which has more rigorous standards than
a hospital setting.

The letter is also highly critical of both Sick Kids and Motherisk
founder and director Gideon Koren. Lockyer said the hospital must
explain why it allowed Koren to rise to such a prominent position in
light of his "torrid past" and why it "so vigorously" defended him "in
the media in the face of calls for a review of Motherisk's work."

Motherisk has provided hair drug and alcohol tests in criminal and
child-protection cases, where it is typically used as evidence of
parental substance abuse, in courts across Ontario and Canada, as the
Star has reported.

AIDWYC joins the Criminal Lawyers' Association, York University's
Innocence Project and the Family Lawyers Association in urging a
broader inquiry into Motherisk. The letter calls for all cases in the
review period - 2005 to 2010 - "in which questions have been raised"
to be "thoroughly investigated."

The letter also asks Lang to probe the concerns related to Koren's
ties to the drug company Duchesnay that have recently surfaced.

A Sick Kids spokeswoman, Gwen Burrows, said the hospital "is engaged
cooperatively in (the) review process" and said it is "not in a
position" to respond to many of AIDWYC's criticisms "to maintain the
integrity" of Lang's review. She added that the hospital is "aware of
questions raised with respect to Dr. Koren and Duchesnay" and is
"looking into these concerns."

Koren did not respond to a request for comment.

Lockyer has first-hand knowledge of the issues currently under
scrutiny. He represented Toronto mom Tamara Broomfield last year in
the Appeal Court case that first raised questions about the
reliability of the hair drug analysis Koren presented at her 2009
criminal trial.

Broomfield was sentenced to seven years in prison for feeding her
young son cocaine, based largely on Motherisk's analysis of the boy's
hair, which Koren said showed he had regularly consumed high doses of
the drug for more than a year.

The court's decision last October to overturn Broomfield's
cocaine-related convictions sparked the Star investigation of
Motherisk that led the province to launch a review of the lab in November.

Lockyer writes that Sick Kids must explain why it initially appeared
to ignore the revelations in the Broomfield case and what,
specifically, prompted it to reverse its position.

In March, Sick Kids announced the temporary suspension of hair drug
and alcoholtests at Motherisk pending the result of Lang's review, but
has refused to provide further details.

In response to questions for this story, Burrows said, "during the
course of Justice Lang's review and Sick Kids' own review, additional
information has arisen of which we were not aware in November."

Lockyer said the public has the right to know more.

"It raises the suggestion that they have discovered more problems . .
. with the work that Motherisk has done, but we don't know and we're
entitled to know," Lockyer said in an interview. "They're a public
hospital, and they should be open to the public."

Motherisk is accredited as a clinical lab. But during Broomfield's
appeal, an expert for the defence, Craig Chatterton, the deputy chief
toxicologist in the office of the chief medical examiner in Edmonton,
said the hair drug test should have been conducted in a forensic lab.

Chatterton said the test Motherisk used to analyze Broomfield's son's
hair in 2005 - called immunoassay - was a "preliminary" screening
test. He said the result should have been confirmed with a gold
standard test, which it was not.

In defending the Motherisk program in the press, Sick Kids initially
relied on the opinion of toxicologist Douglas Rollins, who conceded
under cross-examination that hair drug tests presented in court should
be performed in a forensic lab.

In the letter to Lang, Lockyer says Koren's testimony at the
Broomfield trial, in which he described the immunoassay technique as
"robust," was "misleading."

Other Motherisk employees, Lockyer writes, "were equally reticent in
their failure to inform the court that the immunoassay methodology was
universally recognized in their profession as being merely a
preliminary screening test."

Lockyer said AIDWYC's characterization of Koren's past as "torrid"
relates to a 2003 incident in which Koren was reprimanded and fined
$2,500 by the Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons for penning
harassing, anonymous letters to colleagues during a dispute over
research by fellow doctor Nancy Olivieri.

Amid questions about ties between Koren and Duchesnay, Sick Kids
recently confirmed it has temporarily reassigned medical oversight of
Motherisk, which also counsels pregnant women on which medications are
safe to take.

The questions related to a booklet (featured on the Motherisk website)
on treating morning sickness which was co-authored by Koren and
heavily promotes the use of Duchesnay's drug Diclectin, but did not
disclose the financial support Motherisk gets from the drug company.

Burrows said this week that the hospital is "looking into these
concerns" and has added a disclaimer on the Motherisk website making
clear that Duchesnay sponsors Motherisk, and that Koren serves as a
paid consultant to the drug company.

The report is expected by June 30.
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