Pharyngula

Mysterious case of ethical myopia in Canada

A pathologist in Ontario made some dreadful, stupid, sloppy mistakes, the kinds of errors that can destroy people’s lives.

The mistakes Smith made in conducting autopsies or giving second opinions on autopsies prompted the province to call the inquiry. His work contributed to some parents or caregivers coming under suspicion or being convicted for the deaths of their children.

It took years and many cases for this guy’s incompetence to be caught out. How could that be?

Ontario’s deputy chief coroner admits he failed to recognize warning signs about a controversial pathologist because he was blinded by his own high regard for the doctor, whom he considered to be a trustworthy, religious man.

“I’m quite disappointed that I missed (out on) the signs that were there because I put him on too high a pedestal,” Dr. Jim Cairns yesterday told the Public Inquiry into Pediatric Forensic Pathology in Ontario.

He was commenting on Dr. Charles Smith who was found by a panel of five internationally respected experts to have made “significant flaws” in 20 child-death investigations.

“He came across as a very sincere religious individual and perhaps. … I put too much emphasis on his religious aspect. … I felt that his religious aspect made it unlikely that he wasn’t telling the truth,” Cairns explained. Smith worships with the Christian and Missionary Alliance, a Baptist-like group.

Huh. I just can’t figure out what made people accept this quack so uncritically. Somebody help me out here.