MD in case of chiropractic patient felt pressed to soften findings, jury told
By GAY ABBATE
Tuesday, April 23, 2002 Print Edition, Page A20
Globe and Mail
One of the pathologists who concluded that Lana Dale Lewis's fatal stroke was likely the result of a chiropractic neck adjustment has recanted his autopsy findings and the other is saying he was pressed into watering down his report.
A coroner's inquest heard this startling revelation yesterday as it began to probe into a possible connection between the 45-year-old's death on Sept. 12, 1996, and a neck adjustment she received 17 days earlier from her Toronto chiropractor.
John Deck is scheduled to testify tomorrow about his meeting with coroner's counsel Tom Schneider two days before the start of the inquest. Dr. Deck alleged that pressure was put on him shortly after he finished his autopsy report, at a meeting with members of the chiropractic community and officials from the coroner's office.
The statement the pathologist gave Mr. Schneider was taken down by a Toronto police officer, the inquest heard.
Lawyers for the various parties who have standing at the inquest had complained that the doctor's statement was unintelligible and unreadable in parts.
While several lawyers asked the coroner, Barry McLellan, to postpone Dr. Deck's testimony for a week to give them time to decipher his statement, lawyer Amani Oakley, who is representing Ms. Lewis's family, said that his message was clear.
"We all got the gist of what Dr. Deck was saying," she told Dr. McLellan. "He says that at a previous meeting after the autopsy he felt pressured to soften or ameliorate his finding that Lana Lewis died as a result of a neck treatment."
Dr. McLellan ruled that Dr. Deck could testify tomorrow, but that lawyers could meet with the police officer today to try to clarify the retired doctor's statement.
The jury will hear next week from Michael Pollanen, a neuropathologist with the coroner's office. His report will now say that the mother of three died from natural causes.
The inquest, expected to last at least eight weeks, is expected to be bitter, with the chiropractic community defending the practice of neck manipulation by shifting the focus to the health conditions that put Ms. Lewis at risk of a stroke, including migraines, hypertension, smoking, high cholesterol and a family history of heart attacks.
Yesterday, the jury heard from Al-Noor Dhanani, a neurologist from Queensway General Hospital who treated Ms. Lewis. He testified that she was admitted on Sept. 1, 1996, complaining of neck pain, headache, disorientation and blurred vision. Tests determined that she had suffered a stroke.
He concluded that the stroke could have been the result of a dissection, a tearing of the lining of a blood vessel. In that case, blood can seep and form a blood clot, which can travel to the brain and cause a stroke. Neck manipulation can cause a tear, although that is rare, he said.