The fall of a well-respected man
By Joseph Brean, National Post
The Samuel A. Malcolmson Lecture Theatre is a small, shabby auditorium at the end of a long corridor at the downtown campus of Toronto\’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, formerly the Queen Street Mental Health Centre, formerly the Provincial Lunatic Asylum.
Its distinguished 71-year-old namesake pleaded \”no contest\” yesterday to allegations he sexually abused a much younger female patient, and even fathered a son with her, for which the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario revoked his medical licence.
Samuel Malcolmson, who is married, was chief psychiatrist of the Queen Street Mental Health Centre from 1982 to 1993, and then clinical chief of forensics until 1998, when he went into private practice. Today, he has a home office in a ritzy midtown neighbourhood, and donates to the Toronto Symphony Orchestra.
He did not attend yesterday\’s brief discipline hearing.
But with his vicarious admission of sexual abuse and \”disgraceful, dishonorable or unprofessional conduct,\” his brushed metal plaque becomes a reminder of why such honours are usually bestowed on dead people. The living are unpredictable, and have too many secrets.
Yesterday\’s revelation was that, in 2000, a 34-year-old woman was referred to him for a psychiatric assessment in a child-welfare case, which led to regular appointments and a sexual affair involving pornography and out-of-town travel that lasted until June, 2003. It produced a male child, now aged five, for whom he pays support.
The revocation of his licence would seem to mark the bitter end of a prominent career. But the National Post has learned that more uncomfortable secrets are to emerge next January, when after a decade-long legal process, a multi-million-dollar medical malpractice trial is set to begin in the sordid story of the 1997 death, during childbirth, of Cinderella Allalouf.
The stories are unrelated, except for the central role in both of Mr. Malcolmson.
Ms. Allalouf was a profoundly schizophrenic 39-year-old woman with a long criminal history who had been found unfit to stand trial on charges of child abduction, and placed in custody at the Queen Street Mental Health Centre, in the new medium-security forensics ward run by Mr. Malcolmson.
She was the only woman among 19 mentally ill male inmates, all there on orders of a criminal court. She became pregnant within a few months of her committal in May, 1996.
Her family refused a hospital recommendation of abortion, and she delivered a boy at Mount Sinai Hospital in April, 1997. Eight hours later, having received only minimal amounts of pain drugs, she died in a recovery room of a \”sudden cardiorespiratory arrest.\” A 1999 coroners\’ jury would later rule it \”a sudden unexpected maternal death following Cesarean section, associated with schizophrenia\” by \”undetermined\” means.
In the malpractice action brought by Ms. Allalouf\’s sister Miriam Eccleston, Mr. Malcolmson is named as a defendant along with the province, the Queen Street Mental Health Centre, the Metropolitan Toronto Forensic Service and other medical staff. The claim is that they were negligent in failing to protect Ms. Allalouf from harm while she was a patient. The defendants contest the allegations, which have not been tested in court.
According to a 2000 report by Ontario coroner Dr. William J. Lucas, Ms. Allalouf was \”sexually aggressive, inappropriate, intrusive, difficult to redirect. Many of her co-patients found her behaviour distracting, unsettling and even repulsive.\” She was frequently placed in locked seclusion, for up to eight days at a time.
A source close to the trial said the parentage of the child is not established. He is now 12 years old, autistic and mentally retarded, and being raised by his aunt, Ms. Eccleston.
The harrowing details of this upcoming trial, and the public reprimand that Mr. Malcolmson has been ordered to receive in the sexual abuse case, are sure to add to the dark reputation of the walled hospital campus, near the peaceful and trendy Trinity Bellwoods park on busy Queen Street West.
In Headhunter, the late Timothy Findley\’s apocalyptic 1993 novel set in an asylum modelled on the Queen Street facility, a schizophrenic librarian called Lilah Kemp releases the character Kurtz from Joseph Conrad\’s novella Heart of Darkness. Come to life in a Toronto beset by a mysterious plague, Kurtz takes the form of the asylum\’s chief psychiatrist, a man among savages who, like Conrad\’s Kurtz (most memorably played by Marlon Brando in Apocalypse Now) has gone native, and become a headhunter, a shrink.
That story sealed the site\’s image as a relic of a bygone, penal approach to madness. It also inspired the ongoing renovation of the campus, to open it to the wider community, which is already hugely gentrified and starved for space.
Mr. Malcolmson left the Queen Street Mental Health Centre in 1998, when it was absorbed into the new Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, which has since worked hard to transform itself from the outdated practices of its earlier incarnation. Mr. Malcolmson met his patient, whose name is protected by a publication ban that she herself opposed, at his former downtown office in 2000. He was in his early sixties — \”ageing very well,\” she said–and she was 34, with two older children.
Aside from out-of-town trips, their affair largely consisted of sex acts in his office. She stopped being his patient shortly after the birth of the boy, who she said is named in honour of Dr. Malcolmson and his favourite author. She said she was in love with him, and that she had herself \”sterilized\” on his request when he feared his wife would divorce him.
The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario\’s charge of sexual abuse did not arise from its complaints committee, which is consistent with the woman\’s explanation that one of her subsequent psychiatrists informed the college after she told him about the affair.
She attended yesterday\’s hearing with the boy, who grew impatient with the proceedings but was mostly well-behaved. She had the opportunity to present a victim impact statement, but she did not because she objected to having her words read by someone else. \”What I wanted was to talk,\” she told reporters outside the hearing room. She said Mr. Malcolmson has not seen her or the boy in months. A message on Mr. Malcolmson\’s office line said he is no longer practising medicine, and out of the province until next month.
James Wallace, a lawyer who acted for the woman in brokering a private child support agreement a couple of years ago, said father and son had a relationship at least until that time. The woman said she does not think she is mentally ill, but she is often overwhelmed by anxiety. \”Everything I worry about is justified,\” she said.