Cardiac Arrest


230 pages
Contains Illustrations, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-385-19546-X






Reviewed by Ross Willmot

Ross Willmot is Executive Director of the Ontario Association for
Continuing Education.


Well researched and well told, this is the disturbing story of 33 infants who died under mysterious circumstances as patients of Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children in 1980-1981. The author, Chief Researcher at CBC National TV News, has worked at this revered institution as a Registered Nursing Assistant and has had experience there as patient and parent of a patient. She sifts in vain through the massive evidence collected in the $2.8 million Grange Commission, which lasted almost four years. Her questions remain. Were the deaths coincidence, accident, or were they murders?

The investigations into the deaths became the media event of the time, and repercussions in the public eye continue to the present. The many central players and their positions are listed and identified as in a Shakespearean tragedy. Groups and individuals and their roles are realistically characterized in depth. The civil rights of the nurses attending the babies were abused, declares the author, and as a result there has been a change in the relationship between nurses and doctors. Nurse Susan Nelles was exonerated and recipient of damages. The career of Phyllis Trainer was damaged irreparably. Police and forensic experts still think a number of the children were killed with an overdose of digoxin, a cardiac drug. The verbal battles of lawyers continue. Parents suffered agony for years and were compensated eventually even though the Hospital did not admit guilt.


Spinks, Sarah, “Cardiac Arrest,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 18, 2024,