Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Motherisk Drug and Alcohol Testing Program 'Inadequate and Unreliable': Review

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Motherisk Drug and Alcohol Testing Program 'Inadequate and Unreliable': Review

Article excerpt

Motherisk program 'inadequate': review


TORONTO - A controversial program that uses hair analysis to test for drug and alcohol use in thousands of child protection and criminal cases was deemed "inadequate and unreliable" in a government-commissioned report released Thursday.

The program -- called the Motherisk Drug Testing Laboratory -- was run by the Toronto Hospital for Sick Children, one of the country's major pediatric centres.

Its work came under scrutiny after Ontario's highest court set aside a criminal conviction in October 2014 on the basis of differing expert opinions about a particular hair-testing method previously used by Motherisk.

Just over a month later, the Ontario government ordered a retired appeal court justice to review the program.

"The Motherisk Laboratory's hair strand drug and alcohol analysis between 2005 and 2015 was inadequate and unreliable for use in child protection and in criminal proceedings," said Susan Lang, who led the review.

"The laboratory's flawed hair testing evidence had serious implications for the fairness of child protection and criminal cases. A further review is warranted."

The scope of Lang's review was expanded by the Ontario government while it was underway, and in April children's aid societies were told to immediately stop using the Motherisk program. That same month, the hospital shut down the Motherisk laboratory for all non-research purposes.

On Thursday, the hospital said it welcomed the release of Lang's review and promised to address its recommendations.

"We deeply regret that practices in, and oversight of this particular program did not meet SickKids standards of excellence. We extend our apologies to anyone who feels they may have been impacted," hospital president Dr. Michael Apkon said in a statement.

"We remain resolved in our efforts to ensure that we have effective oversight and highest standards of quality and safety in all of our programs."

Lang's review found that Motherisk did not meet internationally recognized forensic standards.

From 2005 to 2010, she found that the laboratory employed a preliminary screening test that specifically cautioned users about its limitations. …

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