Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Martyred Through Humanitarian Zealousness

"He felt shoved aside. He was unable to repair his reputation."
"When you have made a mistake, you don't want to make another mistake."
"He was motivated by his desire to save children."
Dr. Gilles Fortin, retired pediatrician, Montreal’s Sainte-Justine Hospital
Marcos Townsend/Postmedia News
Marcos Townsend/Postmedia News    Sainte-Justine children's hospital in Montreal.
"He was able to keep on going, even if he saw the worst atrocities [committed against helpless children]. That was his strength of character."
"He was so devoted to his work, which in the end was removed from him. He had no dignity left. He couldn't continue any longer."
Olivier Sirard, 26, son of Dr. Alain Sirard
Dr. Alain Sirard’s zeal to protect the vulnerable was ultimately his undoing.
Handout    Dr. Alain Sirard’s zeal to protect the vulnerable was ultimately his undoing.

What Dr. Alain Sirard saw in his practise with the Montreal hospital would have driven anyone to the distraction of hopeless fury against adults whose capacity to inflict harm and pain on vulnerable and defenceless children he was exposed to. It certainly drove him to exercise all the authority at his disposal as a medical practitioner whose focus was the well-being of children's health outcomes. What he had seen and experienced in his frustrating efforts to safeguard children from harm motivated him to be increasingly suspicious of parents who brought their children to the hospital for medical intervention.

He had seen evidence of babies having been horribly sexually abused, of infants bashed about by parents unable to cope with a child's constant crying demands, of young children left with brain damage as a result of being continually shaken to still their plaints, of children given illicit drugs in an effort to quiet them so they would be less troublesome to their parents. And because he became so ultra-alert to the possibility of violent abuse against children, his habit of viewing parents as the perpetrators of abuse when seeing children presenting with fractures from a fall, for example, enraged innocent parents.

Many of whom were so angry at his brusque accusations that they lodged formal complaints with the  hospital. His work on behalf of children came under growing scrutiny once parents went further than complaining to the hospital, extending their complaints to the media. Investigation by the provincial College of Physicians, the provincial human rights commission and the hospital's own internal disciplinary body commenced, placing a dark cloud of suspicion over Dr. Sirard, leading to his own mental disequilibrium from the ongoing pressure.

In November, Saint-Justine Hospital suspended Dr. Sirard's privileges for a temporary period of a month. Dr. Sirard, 58, was sufficiently depressed to feel that his world had crumbled, his professional integrity brought under scrutiny, the result being a disciplinary punishment of suspension. In the hospital premises he committed suicide on December 6. That totally unexpected, shocking occurrence raised voices in his defence, but it was too late. Now his peers, and his patients, have expressed the concern that his death and the manner of his death will lead to a situation that children will no longer have the staunch support of medical professionals engaged in their defence.

The story of a three-month-old little boy a case in point, a child who throughout his short life was horribly abused by his 19-year-old father. He had been admitted to the hospital in 2007 where tests revealed three skull fractures, four broken ribs, a brain injury, and bruises on his tiny forearm. Dr. Sirard expressed his suspension of belief at the father's explanations of the injuries the baby had sustained. And eventually the father revealed "what really happened".

What really happened was that the 19-year-old father had slapped the child's head repeatedly, twisted his ear, bitten his neck and choked the baby to the point where he would require mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. During an associated court case, Dr. Sirard testifying as an expert witness, informed the court that the child would be left with lasting effects resulting from the brain injury he had sustained: "one of the most violent and most upsetting cases", he had been exposed to throughout his long medical career.

The child's father was served with a 54 month prison sentence, reflecting the aggravated assault he had perpetrated on his infant. The child's grandmother on its mother's side felt hat the doctor had saved the life of her grandson. "Without Dr. Sirard, the child would have remained in the family and probably would have suffered other abuse and could have died from it", she asserted.

In 2013, Radio-Canada's Enquete program featured an hour-long look at the Sainte-Justine's socio-legal clinic which employed Dr. Sirard. Whenever suspicious injuries show up in the emergency department, specialists from the clinic are called to investigate. Five couples whom the clinic had referred to child welfare on the suspicion of abuse were featured on the show, describing the nightmare they had undergone with the removal of their babies.

Second medical opinions had been sought to confirm their testimony that no abuse had taken place while other parents gave plausible explanations for the injuries attributed to violent abuse.An online petition was launched by several of the interviewed parents naming Dr. Sirard as "a potentially dangerous man", recommending his suspension from the hospital. Dr. Sirard was stabbed, sustaining light injuries, while out for a walk after the show had aired, and the attacker never was identified.

The Enquete show spurred the provincial human rights commission to investigate and they concluded that the hospital's pediatricians were well justified in reporting suspicious matters to child welfare since in their opinion "reasonable grounds to believe" the child patients had been abused was sustained by what they discovered. Moreover, under Quebec law doctors have a legal obligation to report suspicions to the youth protection director.

Dr. Sirard left a suicide note of accusation to be discovered after his death. In it he accused the hospital of abandoning him, accused parents who complained about him of malfeasance, accused the College of Physicians and social workers with the youth-protection department of victimizing him through "institutional intimidation".

Labels: , , , , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home

()() Follow @rheytah Tweet