Appeal court convicts Westmount naturopath of manslaughter

Appeal court convicts Westmount naturopath of manslaughter
Appeal court convicts Westmount naturopath of manslaughter

The Quebec Court of Appeal overturned the acquittal, declared Mitra Javanmardi guilty of manslaughter and ordered a new trial for the criminal negligence causing death charge. Postmedia files

In an exceptional decision rendered Thursday, the Quebec Court of Appeal has overturned a Westmount naturopath’s acquittal and convicted her of manslaughter in the nearly 10-year-old death of her patient.

In the summer of 2008, Roger Matern left a Westmount naturopathy clinic feeling disoriented and struggling to stand upright. The 84-year-old, dealing with respiratory problems following heart surgery, had taken the appointment after more traditional treatments proved unsuccessful.

Intravenous injections aren’t typically done on first appointments, Matern was told, but desperate for quick results, he insisted. Naturopath Mitra Javanmardi gave in to his request, injecting him with a magnesium-based compound.

Matern’s negative reaction to the injection was immediate. He felt hot, then he trembled. His state worsened after leaving the clinic, when he became confused and agitated. And his health continued to decline as his family rushed him to a hospital in the middle of the night, where he was pronounced dead soon after  —  16 hours after the injection.

When the compound she injected into Matern was later found to be contaminated, Javanmardi, 60, was charged with manslaughter and criminal negligence causing his death.

In 2015, after a trial that sprawled out over four years and heard 18 expert witnesses, Quebec Court Judge Louise Villemure acquitted Javanmardi of all charges. 

Villemure ruled Javanmardi had taken the necessary precautions before giving Matern the injection and that even if it was illegal to do so — under Quebec law, a naturopath isn’t allowed to give an intravenous injection — she did have enough training to administer the IV.

The verdict shocked the family and the prosecution quickly appealed.

“My father died 16 hours after leaving her office. She performed illegal acts. How can she be totally acquitted?” Matern’s daughter, Gabrielle, told reporters at the time. “We just don’t understand.”

Gabrielle Matern leaves the Quebec Court of Appeal courtroom during Mitra Javanmardi hearings in March 22, 2017. Allen McInnis / Montreal Gazette

In a 46-page judgment rendered Thursday, the Quebec Court of Appeal overturned the acquittal, declared Javanmardi guilty of manslaughter and ordered a new trial for the criminal negligence causing death charge.

“I believe to be in the presence of exceptional conditions allowing the acquittal verdict to be substituted for a conviction on the count of manslaughter,” Judge Claude Gagnon wrote on behalf of the three-judge panel.

“It is clear to me,” Gagon continued, “that the judge should have concluded, on the basis of the undisputed factual findings, that all the essential elements of the offence of manslaughter are, in this case, established beyond reasonable doubt.”

In his appeal of the verdict, Crown prosecutor Dennis Galiatsatos had argued Villemure made a “fundamental error” in acquitting Javanmardi and that the appellate court had sufficient evidence to reverse the decision and find Javanmardi guilty. Javanmardi’s defence lawyer, Isabel Schurman, had countered that the appellate court was the wrong place to go over the facts of a trial.

In Thursday’s decision, Gagnon ordered the case be returned to court to determine Javanmardi’s sentence for the manslaughter conviction.

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