MD challenged at chiropractic inquest

Friday, April 26, 2002 – Print Edition, Page A22

A pathologist was repeatedly badgered at an inquest yesterday in an attempt to get him to retract his conclusion that a chiropractic neck manipulation most likely caused the stroke that killed Lana Dale Lewis.

Tom Schneider, the coroner's lawyer, treated his own expert, Dr. John Deck, as a hostile witness. He asked questions that challenged the retired doctor's opinions, and often interrupted him with theories of other possible causes for the 45-year-old woman's stroke.

At one point, Amani Oakley, the lawyer for the Lewis family, objected to Mr. Schneider's conduct.

"I've sat here for the entire testimony so far and it seems like it's a cross-examination . . . The way questions are asked is not consistent with direct examination but with cross-examination," she told Coroner Barry McLellan.

Mr. Schneider responded that he is an advocate for the public interest and that under the Coroner's Act he can cross-examine witnesses when there are no other parties with standing. "My job is to lay out the evidence so the jury can make a decision . . . When I sit down there should be no more questions to ask," he said.

Ms. Amani argued that Mr. Schneider was only presenting one side of the neck manipulation controversy.

Also, there are four lawyers at the inquest whose job is to cross-examine Mr. Schneider's witnesses. They represent chiropractors and various chiropractic groups at this inquest into Ms. Lewis's death on Sept. 12, 1996, 17 days after a Toronto chiropractor treated her for migraine headaches.

Dr. McLellan ruled that Mr. Schneider's line of questioning was appropriate because "this is advancing the jury's knowledge."

One theory that Mr. Schneider kept suggesting to Dr. Deck, who performed more than 10,000 autopsies during his 31 years as a pathologist, was that the mother of three died when plaque buildup in her brain spontaneously erupted. Mr. Schneider argued that she was at risk of a stroke because of her hypertension and other serious health issues.

Dr. Deck remained firm in his opinion that the trauma to Ms. Lewis's neck occurred around the time she visited her chiropractor.

The jury has heard that on the evening after her neck adjustment, Ms. Lewis called her sister in tears complaining of pain in the back of her neck.

The jury has heard that Ms. Lewis's kidneys and liver were transplanted, a sign she did not suffer from chronic high blood pressure or other diseases that might have brought on the stroke.

Much of yesterday's interrogation of Dr. Deck revolved around a meeting he attended with three members of the chiropractic community and two coroners in 1997 before he wrote his first report that there might be a link between neck manipulation and stroke.

He said he was not pressured at that meeting in the coroner's boardroom but that the meeting itself and the concerns raised there by the chiropractic community may have influenced him to soften his conclusion.

This meeting was called by the chiropractic community and was held without the knowledge of the Lewis family or its representative.

After the meeting, Dr. Jean Moss, the head of the Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College, one of those present, sent him literature on the case history of strokes and neck manipulation, Dr. Deck testified.

He will be cross-examined today by lawyers for the chiropractic community.

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