Equestrian accident: Doctors in emotional tug-of-war over recall of Toronto deaths

An investigation by Ontario’s chief pathologist into allegations he disregarded medical results in 12 deaths in a B.C. region that he calls his second home has ballooned, with suggestions he may have made dozens of errors and refused to turn over autopsy reports.

Dr. Dirk Huyer has been put on paid leave by the Ministry of Health and, as allegations of doctor-shopping – that he travelled from Ottawa to B.C. for university courses or failed to inform authorities that he had conducted exams in the province – mount, some parents of children who died are calling for a public inquest.

Richard Sook-Yin Lee, a former B.C. coroner’s service director who had worked for the ministry of health, earlier this year brought former B.C. Public Health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry to Parliament Hill, warning the issue of pathologist-related mistakes in the coroner’s office was “a matter of life and death.” He said one aspect was covered by the mandatory in-house reporting of errors and other complications that occur in many sectors, so it was time for the Ministry of Health to do the same in the medical sector.

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As part of that push, he sought the assistance of Dr. Huyer, and asked Dr. Henry to conduct an investigation of Dr. Huyer’s career between 1983 and 2014. She has given it a flimsy focus by charging that Dr. Huyer performed forensic work for non-law enforcement agencies in Georgia and Virginia, doing autopsies of babies, including those born with congenital malformations; some of the infant deaths could be because the dead had been mistreated by their mothers.

According to Dr. Henry, she was also unable to find records of Dr. Huyer performing autopsies in B.C. The allegations come from Randy Brown, whose 18-year-old son Jonathan died on the swing set at a Friendswood Park in Esquimalt in 2002. Mr. Brown has filed a notice of civil action against B.C. Ministry of Health after the death; the province had asserted jurisdiction over the child’s death after the family left Vancouver, but the court dismissed the case and its application is currently before the B.C. Court of Appeal.

Ryan Ryley, who was 12 years old when he died of an illicit drug overdose on Oct. 22, 2010, won a wrongful-death lawsuit against the City of Vancouver in which the decision to bring charges against a Vancouver city street medic was overturned in 2013.

The boy was known to the Vancouver Police Department and a provincial officer. Drug use by children is part of the regular realities of life in Vancouver. But it was clear something had gone terribly wrong on Oct. 21, 2010, the day he died.

Ryan was sober when he overdosed, according to the report. Blood test results a day later showed he had fentanyl in his system.

Ryan was the first of 12 individuals – 11 men and one woman – who died in B.C. in 10 months after a B.C. resident was identified as having died in Georgia in 2009, with their B.C. deaths attributed to a still unknown cause. No drugs were found in any of their deaths.

Six individuals died in his brother’s driveway in Port Coquitlam, B.C., on Aug. 19, 2010. They overdosed.

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Three families have already filed lawsuits against Dr. Huyer in the B.C. Courthouse, alleging the deaths could not have been caused by illicit drugs.

In his report, Dr. Henry concludes that Dr. Huyer either falsified or neglected to follow pathologist protocols in at least eight of those cases. She also wrote that he may have made “it appear as though he did all of the autopsies himself” which would have enabled him to take a shortcut.

But even if Dr. Huyer had conducted all of the autopsies himself, it would not be grounds for contempt of court in the British Columbia region, the Chief Crown Counsel confirmed in an interview.

“We have a problem there,” he said. “But that just speaks to the severity of the issue, the sheer number of these cases, and how many people have been impacted by all of this, and we need to get the truth out. The defendants need to come clean.”

with The Globe and Mail

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