A disciplinary tribunal has revoked the licence of Charles Smith over his botched child death investigations, delivering the first punishment Dr. Smith has faced in the tragic affair.
The College of Physicians and Surgeons’ disciplinary committee also ordered that he appear before the panel to be publicly reprimanded in March, and directed him to pay more than $3,000 in costs around a one-day hearing Tuesday. The committee earlier found the discredited pathologist guilty of misconduct and incompetence.
Carolyn Silver, a lawyer for Ontario’s medical regulator, argued that Dr. Smith deserves the “harshest” professional penalty possible for his flawed death investigations.
Dr. Smith did not appear at the hearing, but through his lawyer agreed he had come to mistaken conclusions and gave misleading testimony in numerous cases of children dying suddenly. He also pleaded “no contest” to the charges, and to the penalty proposed by Ms. Silver.
Six of those affected by his evidence in death cases, several of whom attended the hearing, submitted emotional victim impact statements that were read aloud.
“Dr. Smith’s conduct constituted … a shocking departure from levels of professionalism and integrity expected by the college,” said Ms. Silver.
The College of Physicians and Surgeons hearing is only the latest fallout of Dr. Smith’s bungled investigations of child deaths, which have already been condemned by a judicial inquiry and continue to reverberate through the province’s justice system.
Dr. Smith, now reportedly living in Victoria, B.C., was found to have made errors in 20 such investigations, 12 of which led to criminal charges against parents or other caregivers. In most cases, they have since been cleared of wrongdoing.
Just this week, news emerged that Tammy Marquardt, 38, is expected to be granted a new trial by the Ontario Court of Appeal after being convicted in 1995 of murder in the death of her two-year-old son. Prosecutors say Dr. Smith’s incorrect testimony that the child was suffocated tainted the jury against Ms. Marquardt.
William Mullins-Johnston had his first-degree murder conviction in the death of his niece overturned in 2007, after spending 12 years in prison, because of errors in Dr. Smith’s analysis of the death. He was awarded $4.25-million in compensation by the province last year.
From the 1980s until 2001, the pathologist acted as a child forensic pathologist for the Chief Coroner’s Office, issuing autopsy reports, advising police and testifying at criminal trials.
In many cases, experts say he wrongly fingered caregivers as the perpetrators responsible for injuries, when it was more likely an accident or the fault of someone else.
As it turned out, he had never received formal training as a forensic pathologist, a subspecialty for which there was no training program in Ontario until 2008.