Chief medical examiner had no time to complete reports in child deaths

Dr. Andrew Monteith, Ontario’s chief medical examiner, faced a barrage of questions from frustrated parents as he testified at the Ontario legislature on Tuesday. Parents have accused the coroner of ignoring evidence in their child’s death that could have prevented future deaths, notably in one notorious case involving the deaths of five girls at a school swimming pool in eastern Ontario.

Parents had hoped their answers would help them obtain full disclosure from coroner’s officials, but Dr. Monteith testified that he lacked the funding and staff needed to investigate every case. He also questioned the wisdom of publicizing young people’s deaths.

Dr. Monteith, one of the country’s top pathologists, has been criticized in two cases that have made headlines this summer. In December 2016, he deemed an 11-year-old drowned at a swimming pool in Cambridge, Ont., after erroneously assuming her body was still in a body bag. But documents obtained in January by the Citizen newspaper found that police had not filed a missing persons report on the girl at the time, a mistake they claimed was made to accommodate the coroner’s office.

Over the summer, the Queen’s Park committee looking into the deaths of five girls who drowned in 2015 at an east-end school in Greater Sudbury heard from parents whose children drowned and their distraught mothers. The chief coroner’s office allegedly found evidence in one of the children’s deaths, but only in a small portion of her autopsy record, and not the entire collection. A civil lawsuit over the deaths will go to trial soon.

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