Dr. Evan Matshes, a former Calgary medical examiner, sues Alberta government, Justice Minister and other staff $30 million for defamation

Former medical examiner sues Alberta government, Justice Minister and other staff $30 million for defamation by Daryl Slade, February 24, 2014, Calgary Herald
Dr. Evan Matshes, a former Calgary forensic pathologist, has launched a defamation suit against the provincial government. A former Calgary medical examiner who has had 13 of his case findings disputed is suing Alberta’s justice minister and other staff for $30 million. In his defamation statement of claim, former assistant Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Evan Matshes alleges that the actions of the government “were undertaken maliciously and with the deliberate intention to cause (him) harm and in an effort to ruin (his) career, and are an abuse of public office.”

Matshes, 35, who now works in Albuquerque, New Mexico, says as a result of the defendants’ actions, he is limited to remaining in his current place of employ as no other organizations will hire him. He said their actions have caused a strain on his marriage and other personal and professional relationships and, as a result, he has suffered mental anguish, distress, depression and other health issues. None of the allegations have been proven in court and a statement of defence hasn’t been filed. Matshes worked for the province as a forensic pathologist from Aug. 1, 2010, to Sept. 1, 2011, and was a contract autopsy pathologist for Alberta Health Services from Sept 1, 2011, to June 2012. He alleges that after one of three forensic pathologists at the office resigned in January 2011, leaving him and one other to do the work, the heavy workload, job strain and lack of safe environment prompted him to resign on March 1, 2011, to take effect on Sept. 1, 2011.

He said that after Dr. Annie Sauvageau, whom he had not supported to be Chief Medical Examiner, was named to the post on July 1, 2011, he began to be mistreated. He alleges he was moved into a small cubicle in the records department where he had no computer or telephone and could not attend or have any contact with staff at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. Matshes says he was then advised that if he did not complete and submit 80 cases by Aug. 5, 2011, Sauvageau would suspend his final two paycheques. He claims he completed all of the cases on or before Sept. 1, 2011.

Then, he says, on Feb. 15, 2012, Sauvageau issued a letter of complaint to the Alberta College of Physicians and Surgeons, alleging he reached unreasonable conclusions in three cases. There was also a letter from an insurance company requesting further information about one case in which Matshes ruled was accidental death but was “clearly a natural death.” Sauvageau, he alleges, had decided to carry out an internal review and identified eight additional cases. In two of those cases, the pathologist who did the internal review believed that an accidental manner of death was not reasonable. Three members of a U.S. panel of experts that reviewed 14 of Matshes cases and came to a consensus on 13 of the cases that there had been errors, but their decision was quashed by a Judge at Court of Queen’s Bench last Nov. 13, he says. The review of Matshes work was also conducted, he says without warning to him to defend himself and was disclosed to the media. He claims that by their actions, they have further aggravated the damages caused to him.

He alleges they have repeatedly refused and declined to apologize to him; repeatedly refused and declined to retract or correct any or all of the defamatory words and in particular declined to retract or correct the Sauvageau remarks. Matshes also says the government defendants failed to provide him with an opportunity to respond to the reviewers and convened in secret. He says their comments suggest his work could be connected to miscarriages of justice, that he was incompetent and lacked integrity, among other things. “The malicious, high-handed, callous and arrogant conduct of the defendants as aforesaid displays a wanton and flagrant disregard for the plaintiff’s rights,” says the statement of claim. Matshes is seeking $5 million for defamation and negligence, $20 million for loss of income, $5 million in punitive, aggravated and exemplary damages, and special damages to be determined at trial. [Emphasis added]

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