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The Globe and Mail

Disgraced pathologist passes on his own disciplinary hearing

Dr. Charles Smith arrives at public hearings in January, 2008, during an inquiry into his testimony in cases involving the death of children.

Kevin Van Paassen

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario didn't mince words in what may well be the final official reprimand of Charles Smith: egregious, repulsive, disgraced, abhorrence, abysmal.

But they were all directed at an empty chair – the disgraced forensic pathologist didn't turn up.

"We all knew he wasn't going to show," said Tammy Marquardt, who spent 14 years in prison for the death of her son as a result of Mr. Smith's faulty testimony. "He's not man enough to stand up and take what's due to him."

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The college revoked Mr. Smith's medical licence last month and ordered him to show up for Friday's reprimand, but didn't have the power to compel him to attend.

The public dressing-down provided a "minuscule" comfort to Ms. Marquardt, whose 1995 second-degree murder conviction is one of several cases involving Mr. Smith that the Court of Appeal has overturned.

Despite Mr. Smith's absence at the reprimand, the college still came down hard on the former doctor, expressing its "abhorrence" of his conduct years after his mistakes became clear.

"Your transgressions were egregious in nature, repulsive in result, and caused irreparable harm to many innocent victims," panel chairman Marc Gabel said to the chair reserved for Mr. Smith. "You had a duty to the public, to the administration of justice and to your profession. Your failure in all of these respects is abominable to this panel, to your fellow physicians and, as importantly, to the public."

Mr. Smith's actions compromised the administration of justice and he did not act morally, ethically or with the best interests of patients, Dr. Gabel said.

Once considered an unassailable expert on child forensic pathology, an inquiry found that errors in Mr. Smith's work were responsible, in part, for several people being wrongfully convicted and sent to prison for killing children.

In addition, other reports and reviews have noted his errors; his findings have been lambasted numerous times in court in recent years.

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With his medical licence revoked, Mr. Smith is not expected to face further sanctions so the college may have the last word.

Mr. Smith failed to gather relevant information and conduct appropriate investigations, he referenced social situations of parents that were irrelevant to the pathology and gave unscientific, speculative and unsubstantiated opinions, the college said.

In Ms. Marquardt's case, she said she found her two-year-old son tangled in his bed sheets, but Mr. Smith testified he was strangled or suffocated. Her conviction was overturned by the appeal court last month and a new trial ordered.

Ms. Marquardt said Mr. Smith's apology, medical licence revocation and reprimand aren't enough to make up for the 14 years she spent in prison.

"Personally I'd like to see him to go jail, at least feel a little bit of what we felt: fear for your life on a daily basis," Ms. Marquardt said. "Live your life on a constant fight or flight and tell me how your body's going to hold up to that."

Mr. Smith's lawyer sent a letter to the college on Thursday saying her client wouldn't attend the reprimand. A request to the lawyer for comment was not immediately returned Friday. Mr. Smith was last heard to be living in British Columbia.

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