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Pathologist in hot seat at inquest
Chiropractors' lawyers question his authority
John Deverell
Staff Reporter
Lawyers for chiropractors are mounting a vigorous challenge to the credibility of Dr. John Deck, a forensic pathologist who supervised the autopsy on stroke victim Lana Dale Lewis.

An inquest examining Lewis' death heard yesterday that in December, 1996, Deck told representatives of the Canadian Chiropractic Association the strokes Lewis suffered were probably sparked by a neck manipulation.

The inquest has been told that Lewis, a 45-year-old mother of three, went to hospital on Sept. 1, 1996. She complained of dizziness and failing eyesight, and mentioned a neck manipulation administered by chiropractor Dr. Philip Emanuele five days before.

Lewis died of a stroke on Sept. 12, 1996, 17 days after seeing Emanuele. The inquest is examining the link between stroke and chiropractic manipulation.

Yesterday's cross-examination of Deck, who is now retired, was conducted by Tim Danson for the Canadian Chiropractic Association and the Canadian Memorial Chiropractic Hospital, and by Brian Foster for Emanuele.

Danson asked why Deck wouldn't consider alternate theories for why Lewis died, such as the hypertension exhibited by her father and nine of her 12 siblings, her father's coronary heart disease, and her mother's high cholesterol.

"Can you think of a better candidate for a stroke?" Danson demanded. "Wasn't she a ticking time bomb?"

Deck replied that Lewis was at risk, as are many Ontarians, but that the stroke affected an unusual part of her brain. The most pertinent evidence, he said, were Lewis' symptoms of stroke when she reported at the Queensway General Hospital five days after the neck adjustment, and the autopsy evidence of trauma to her vertebral artery, which is uncommon in stroke victims.

Danson asked Deck how he could presume to have an opinion about the effects of a procedure such as neck adjustment, which he had never conducted and about which he had little or no direct knowledge.

"You could say the same about a gunshot wound to the head," Deck shot back.

"A pathologist interprets what he finds."

Danson then focused on extensive communications to Deck from Dr. Murray Katz of Montreal, a medical doctor. The lawyer noted that Deck had not disclosed some of the letters and faxes, and suggested that he shared Katz' dislike of chiropractic.

Katz recently has been advising the Lewis family, but last week was excluded from the inquest by Coroner Barry McLelland at the request of the chiropractors.

"Murray Katz is the most outspoken enemy of chiropractic in this country," Danson challenged. "You are aware of that and you associate with him?"

"I think he's a good man," Deck replied. Under questioning by Foster about some missing letters, Deck said he maintained an official file and a personal file on all cases.

The inquest continues today.

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