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Cooper along with several colleagues is defending the article, which is still available on CNN's website. Photo: CC, dbking.

Cooper seeks documents from the U of O in relation to court case

Media company CNN and host Anderson Cooper are subpoenaing documents from the University of Ottawa, the University of Toronto, and the Hospital for Sick Children in relation to a lawsuit filed against the media outlet by Dr. Michael Black.

Black, who attended the U of O in 1987 for his medical residency following the completion of his studies at the University of Toronto in 1986, and was awarded Chief Administrative Surgical Resident, and worked at SickKids in Toronto, is now suing CNN and Cooper, along with co-host Elizabeth Cohen among others for defamation.

The lawsuit comes following a report published by CNN in 2015 titled, “Secret Deaths: CNN Finds High Surgical Death Rate for Children at a Florida Hospital,” which outlines a string of infant deaths post heart surgery, all of which were performed by Black at St. Mary’s Medical Center, in West Palm Beach, Florida. The story also appeared on CNN’s show “Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees.”

According to the CNN report, “at least eight babies have died since the pediatric open heart surgery program at St. Mary’s Medical Center began in December 2011,” making the hospital’s death rate for pediatric open heart surgery between 2011 and 2013 three times higher than the national average. Further, the report reveals that the institution was hiding these death rates from the public.

After the controversial story broke, Black, along with some of St. Mary’s administrative staff faced public backlash. According to an article from the Washington Post, St. Mary’s closed its pediatric cardiac surgery program, and the CEO of the medical centre handed in his resignation.

Black is alleging that CNN’s article, and the sources interviewed for it, have cost him his reputation and impacted his ability to work by implying he treated his infant patients as “sacrificial lambs,” according to the Post.

The Washington Post article also states that CNN faced criticism for using Black’s death rate alone to write their generalized statement about the hospital, which compared it to that of the entire United States, as well as for their ambush style tactics to gather video footage. Such footage allegedly falsely portrayed an unwillingness from hospital staff to discuss these mortality rates after being sought out at their homes, as discussed by the Post.

However, CNN maintains that their reporting is sound, and responded to criticisms in another article, which they linked to in the original piece.

Per the court case, CNN filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit in 2016, which was denied. Cooper is now looking to build a defence to disprove Black’s claim that he is “impeccably credentialed,” according to an article published in the National Post.

While Black’s resume boasts of his many accomplishments, CNN hopes to find holes that will prove useful in court. This is why Cooper is now attempting to gain access to files dating back to Black’s days as a student at the U of O and the U of T, and requesting performance reviews and complaints, as well as any awards that Black may have received.

As per the National Post article, a hearing regarding the documents is scheduled to be held sometime this month in Toronto.