Magazine article Anglican Journal

Searching for Meaning in Baby's Death: Loss Drives Mom's Fight with College

Magazine article Anglican Journal

Searching for Meaning in Baby's Death: Loss Drives Mom's Fight with College

Article excerpt



An Anglican woman whose infant daughter died of dehydration a day after she was sent home from hospital says she does not want the licence of the doctor who treated her removed.

Instead, Georgina Hunter and her husband James want it publicly acknowledged that an error was made, they want the doctor's name and details of the case registered so patients have access to the information and they want the case published for other doctors to learn from.

"That's all we are seeking," Mrs. Hunter said from her Ottawa home. "That's not very much for a mother who has lost her baby. We are not seeking retribution."

Mrs. Hunter has been a very public thorn in the side of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario since her sevenweek old daughter died four years ago.

"From an Anglican point of view, from a spiritual point of view, I have felt called ever since Madeleine died to educate people."

Mrs. Hunter also organized a baby memorial service at St. John the Evangelist Church, Ottawa, last year as a way for parents to grieve their lost babies, a service that was so successful it is being repeated this October.

In the days leading up to her death, the Hunters were worried that Madeleine was quite ill. She was sent home first from an Ottawa hospital and days later from the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. A day after she was discharged, Madeleine died. The autopsy attributed it to gastroenteritis and dehydration.

A coroner's inquest was called and the jury made numerous recommendations. The Hunters then laid a complaint with the college. But the complaints committee released a report to the Hunters in March saying it will not refer to a disciplinary hearing the resident doctor who sent Madeleine home from Toronto's Sick Kids.

In excerpts Mrs. Hunter released from the committee's report, it notes that "a greater level of care" could have been provided to Madeleine but that the assessor did not believe care was below standard and that the resident's inexperience explains why some of the subtle warning signs were not adequately heeded.

"The committee feels that any intervention in this matter should be educational, not punitive," it concludes.

Mrs. Hunter said she has achieved her goals in convincing the Ministry of Health to look at the college's procedures and in raising public awareness through a postcard and educational campaign. Now that a new group has started in Kingston - Victims of Health Care Abuse - Mrs. Hunter is satisfied other people will be keeping a close watch on the medical profession.

"I've done what I needed to do to ensure Madeleine's death was not in vain. I feel I have accomplished my goal."

At the same time, she is hoping the public will maintain pressure on the health ministry to make the Ontario college more accountable. She would like people to protest the college's offering of alternative dispute resolution to resolve complaints sent to discipline, primarily because the doctor's name is not made public during that process.

Based on research she has done by checking with colleges across Canada, Mrs. Hunter concluded the Ontario college has the lowest rate of complaints referred to discipline across the country, at just under one per cent.

Cases sent to disciplinary hearings are the only ones in which the doctors' names are publicly revealed. Mrs. Hunter said that means doctors can be making all kinds of errors without patients finding out. …

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