Disgraced pathologist Charles Smith's professional future will be officially decided next week when he stands before a disciplinary committee of Ontario's College of Physicians and Surgeons.
Dr. Smith, whose erroneous expert evidence and testimony contributed to more than a dozen criminal charges, many of which resulted in wrongful convictions, will have to answer on Tuesday to allegations that he is incompetent and acted in a manner that would be regarded as "disgraceful, dishonourable and unprofessional."
The college, which governs the conduct of doctors in the province, had held off investigating Dr. Smith while a public inquiry, headed by Mr. Justice Stephen Goudge of the Ontario Court of Appeal, conducted a year-and-half-long probe into the pathologist and his superiors in the Office of the Chief Coroner. In a final report released in October, 2008, Judge Goudge concluded that the doctor's findings - most of which were made in connection with the deaths of babies and infants and often resulted in parents losing custody of other children - "defied logic" and were "simply baffling."
It's not clear what arguments, if any, Dr. Smith is prepared to offer in his defence. When he testified before the public inquiry, he stated that his mistakes were not intentional. He also made a tearful apology to William Mullins-Johnson, who spent 12 years in jail after being wrongfully convicted of sodomizing and murdering his four-year-old niece. Dr. Smith's lawyer, Niels Ortved, declined to comment about what the pathologist is expected to say.
There are a range of penalties that Dr. Smith could face from the panel: His certification could be revoked completely, or merely suspended for a specified period of time; he could be required to pay a fine to the provincial government of not more than $35,000. He has been unable to practise medicine for nearly three years. He agreed to stop practising shortly after Judge Goudge's probe commenced, and then later resigned his licence, said Kathryn Clarke, a spokeswoman for the College of Physicians and Surgeons.
In October, Ontario's provincial Liberal government announced that Mr. Mullins-Johnson would receive $4.25-million in compensation. Earlier in August, the government pledged a maximum of $250,000 to the victims in the other cases examined by Judge Goudge.