Pubdate: Sat, 18 Apr 2015
Source: Toronto Star (CN ON)
Copyright: 2015 The Toronto Star
Author: Rachel Mendleson
Page: A1


Decision follows Star investigation into results used in criminal and
child protection cases across Canada

The Hospital for Sick Children has permanently discontinued drug and
alcohol hair tests at its embattled Motherisk Drug Testing Laboratory
after an internal review "further explored and validated" previous,
and as yet undisclosed, "questions and concerns."

The decision, announced on Friday, comes amid a Star investigation and
mounting pressure from critics to shutter the lab, whose drug and
alcohol hair tests have been used in criminal and child protection
cases across the country, typically as evidence of parental substance

"Over the past six weeks, the hospital has continued to review its
decision to suspend the laboratory's operations," Sick Kids said in a
statement. "The hospital has concluded that this laboratory service is
not required for its ongoing operations."

The province appointed retired Appeal Court justice Susan Lang late
last year to probe the reliability and accuracy of five years' worth
of drug hair tests performed by Motherisk, from 2005 to 2010.

In March, Sick Kids temporarily suspended all non-research operations
at Motherisk after Lang's review and the hospital's review revealed
new information, pending the results of Lang's review, which are
expected by June 30.

The hospital has declined to elaborate on the nature of that
information. A hospital spokeswoman said on Friday that Sick Kids is
not taking media inquiries.

Toronto lawyer James Lockyer, who criticized the hospital's secrecy in
his submissions to Lang on behalf of the Association in Defence of the
Wrongly Convicted, called the hospital's silence "disquieting."

"It is a drastic decision, to permanently close down an important
operation which, until recently, the hospital was strongly defending,"
he said. "The 'wait and see until the independent review is completed'
only (heightens) concerns about what went wrong."

Criminal lawyer Daniel Brown, who urged Lang to broaden her review on
Motherisk in the submissions he helped prepare for the Criminal
Lawyers' Association, said the hospital "has an immediate obligation
to publicly share the results of their internal review so that
problems identified during that review can be swiftly corrected." In
its statement Friday, Sick Kids said it would not provide further
details to "maintain the ongoing integrity of the independent review."

"We understand the public may want more information on the findings
that have led the hospital to make this decision, and we believe that
it is most appropriate for that disclosure to come through the
independent review," the hospital said.

Health Minister Eric Hoskins refused to answer questions on why there
is so much secrecy surrounding the problems uncovered at Motherisk and
instead issued a statement by email about Lang's review.

"The independent review is ongoing and we have confidence in the work
that is being carried out by the Honourable Susan Lang," he said.

Sick Kids recently temporarily reassigned medical oversight of
Motherisk, which also counsels pregnant women on which medications are
safe to take, amid questions from the Star about the ties between
Motherisk director and founder Gideon Koren and the drug company Duchesnay.

The questions related to the lack of disclosure of the funding
Motherisk receives from Duchesnay in a booklet for pregnant women
co-written by Koren and featured on theMotherisk website, which
heavily promotes the use of Duchesnay's drug Diclectin to treat
morning sickness.

The hospital has said it is aware of the concerns about Koren and
Duchesnay and is continuing to investigate. It has declined to comment
on whether Koren has been removed as director of Motherisk. Koren did
not respond to a request for comment on Friday.

The Star investigation of Motherisk began late last year, when an
Appeal Court overturned the cocaine-related convictions of Toronto mom
Tamara Broomfield after fresh evidence criticized the drug hair tests
results Koren presented at her 2009 trial.

Broomfield was sentenced to seven years in prison for feeding her
toddler cocaine after Koren testified that tests of her son's hair
showed that he had regularly consumed large amounts of the drug for
more than a year leading up to a near-fatal 2005 overdose.

Lockyer represented Broomfield at the Appeal Court. The fresh evidence
he presented came from Craig Chatterton, deputy chief toxicologist in
the office of the chief medical examiner in Edmonton, who challenged
Motherisk's findings and said the method the lab used to test the
boy's hair was a preliminary screening test, and the result should
have been confirmed with a gold-standard test.

The terms of the independent review were set after Sick Kids told the
Star it started using the gold-standard test to analyze hair for
cocaine in 2010.

When she announced the review, Attorney General Madeleine Meilleur
said it was the first step that could spark a larger inquiry.

The Criminal Lawyers' Association, the Family Lawyers Association, the
Innocence Project and the Association in Defence of the Wrongly
Convicted have since called for the scope to be broadened.

Toronto lawyer Katharina Janczaruk, chair of the Family Lawyers
Association, said on Friday that the hospital's announcement bolsters
the case for expanding the review beyond 2010, to include whatever new
information has arisen about more recent issues in the lab.

"We have a right to know what the new information is because it may
have an impact on current cases," she said.

A spokesman for the review declined to comment on the news from Sick
Kids on Friday.
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