Lawsuits allege Ontario pathologists neglected children after botched autopsies

TORONTO – A slew of lawsuits have been filed by parents of children taken off life support following sudden infections in Ontario, claims that allege shoddy medical investigations and deficient supervision by the province’s lead pathologist.

At issue are allegations by four families in Ontario, and one in the province of Quebec, that they suffered death in their children because of findings from autopsy reports from Dr. William Hadden, who led the Ontario Forensic Pathology Service from 2003 to April 2016. Hadden’s tenure coincided with heightened calls for transparency in Ontario’s public health system, as six of 14 children born in the province to families that used Hadden as their primary pathologist also died in the last five years. Hadden is not named in the legal actions.

The lawsuits seek compensation for family members affected.

“Instead of taking responsibility, those responsible in Ontario Health Ministry and the Ontario Forensic Pathology Service want us to believe it’s someone else’s fault,” Margaret Kimmelman, the mother of 9-year-old Skylar Harris, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Skylar died from a virus that entered his bloodstream and ultimately was caused by a liver transplant, said Kimmelman, who noted that Hadden’s reports did not include an explanation of why she died.

In one case, a mother was left to wonder if her 12-year-old son Connor Jones had accidentally ingested a toxic level of alcohol in a cocktail at a birthday party, the woman’s lawsuit alleges. Hadden did not ask a hospital if other families’ children had consumed more than one drink at the same party, her claims claim.

A spokesman for Ontario’s ministry of health did not immediately comment on the legal claims.

But Tamsin Lawless, the lawyer representing Harris, said those responsible for the management of Ontario’s medical system and Hadden have not focused on the workers themselves, but have instead turned their attention on the parents.

“It’s like they’re treating these families as a threat – we’re out here and we’re raising these problems,” Lawless said.

For example, Lawless noted that cases of death in children are usually brought to Hadden’s attention by one of his trainees or by the parents themselves. However, she said two examples of those cases were brought to Hadden’s attention while Hadden was still the province’s chief pathologist and resulted in no order for a new autopsy.

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