Cocaine level in boy's system 'extraordinarily high,' MD says
Crown alleges mother allowed child, who suffered seizure, broken ribs, to ingest drug for 14 months
As he had done hundreds of times, Dr. Gideon Koren tested a strand of hair to see how much cocaine the patient had ingested.
In the first test, the hair was minced to measure the level of exposure.
It showed 41 nanograms per 100 milligrams, an "extraordinary high" level, he testified yesterday.
"I don't believe we've ever seen a child at these levels," Koren, director of the Motherisk program at the Hospital for Sick Children, testified yesterday at a trial for the boy's mother.
That would put the 2-year-old boy, if he were an adult, in the top 5 per cent of users, the doctor said.
Further tests on a 15-centimetre strand of the toddler's hair showed that, based on an estimated growth rate of 1 centimetre per month, the boy would have ingested cocaine over 15 months, he said.
The boy's 26-year-old mother, who cannot be named to protect the identity of her son, has pleaded not guilty to five charges, including aggravated assault, administering a noxious substance and failing to provide the necessities of life in 2004 and 2005.
Crown prosecutor Joshua Levy alleges the mother allowed the boy to ingest cocaine over a period of at least 14 months in 2004 and 2005.
Doctors also found numerous broken ribs in various stages of healing.
Koren testified that he was asked by a treating physician at the Hospital for Sick Children to test the toddler's hair to determine his level of cocaine exposure after he was admitted to the hospital on Aug. 1, 2005, suffering from a seizure.
The boy was in a coma for several days, and near death. Doctors had cut a hole in his skull to relieve swelling.
At the time of the seizure, the mother said she thought her son had found the cocaine in the hallway of their Midland Ave. apartment building, witnesses have testified.
Now 5 and living in Toronto with his 26-year-old father, the boy has permanent brain damage, suffers from seizures and requires a full-time teaching assistant at school.
Koren testified that levels of benzoylecgonine, produced when the body metabolizes cocaine, were also very high in the boy, at 4.43 nanograms per 100 milligrams.
Koren's lab conducted a second test, studying each segment of hair, and found that peak levels corresponded to January and February of 2005.
The level in his blood reached as high as 75.88 nanograms of cocaine per 100 milligrams.
"That means that the child in question was exposed to cocaine over time. This child must have had exposure to cocaine on many occasions," Gideon said.
"These high levels in an adult represent severe addiction and drug dependency."
Defence lawyer Terry Kirichenko suggested the boy, who had a fever as he fought for his life in hospital after a massive cocaine overdose, would have contaminated the hair with the drug as he sweated.
Koren replied that sweating would only produce a "minor source," and could not account for the level of contamination shown in the hair.
Kirichenko suggested that the child might have inhaled the drug from the smoke produced by crack users.
Koren replied that children exposed only to crack smoke show much smaller levels in their system.
Kirichenko suggested that testing children for cocaine is "new territory."
"No, it's not new territory, sir," Koren replied.
The trial continues.
Jan 23, 2009 04:30 AM