Doctor’s motivation questioned

By Ellwood Shreve, Chatham Daily News

Dr. Robert McMurtry’s medical credentials are impeccable, but his motivations were questioned during an Ontario Environmental Review Tribunal hearing in Chatham on Wednesday.

McMurtry, who is Professor (Emeritus) of Surgery at the University of Western Ontario as well as former Dean of Medicine at UWO, was the final expert witness called for the appellants — Katie Erickson and Chatham-Kent Wind Action Inc. — who are challenging the approval of the Kent Breeze Wind Farm, the first under Ontario’s Green Energy Act, on the basis noise from the yet-to-be built facility will cause harm to nearby residents.

The tribunal accepted McMurtry’s expert witness status as a physician and surgeon with experience in the delivery of health-care policy and health-care.

However, lawyers for Suncor Energy, which is building the Thamesville-area wind farm, and the Ministry of Environment, questioned his expertise about wind farms and raised concerns he was acting more as an anti-wind farm advocate.

McMurtry, who is a member the Society for Wind Vigilance and the Alliance to Protect Prince Edward County, which have both opposed large scale industrial wind turbine projects, told the tribunal he was appearing as a health advocate.

Suncor lawyer Rodney Northey questioned McMurtry about how in earlier affidavits and deputations his wording has gone from being concerned about the potential health impacts of wind turbines in January 2010 to stating wind turbines cause the adverse health effects in May 2010.

“What is it that led you to that change?” Northey asked.

McMurtry pointed to information presented at a symposium he helped organize last fall to making it clear to him that many people living near industrial wind turbines have suffered similar adverse health effects.

Northey questioned McMurtry about statements in his report to the tribunal that the Kent Breeze Wind Farm will cause people to suffer harm.

McMurtry replied that it will more likely than not cause some people harm, based on studies another appellant witness, acoustician Rick James, did on the sound energy around three other wind farms, where other people have complained of suffering adverse health effects.

Northey pointed out there is no systematic epidemiological field study that proves wind turbines cause people harm.

McMurtry acknowledged the evidence is not yet definitive, but noted there are several reports of people suffering adverse health effects from the devices.

While he admits to not being “completely neutral” on this issue, McMurtry said he’s “trying to draw the government’s attention to the fact there are concerns.”

McMurtry, who has served in several advisory capacities at the national level on health matters, suggested a RFP for a research project, much like what has been done on hospital wait times.

“I would be very happy to see a similar process carried out in regards to adverse health effects of industrial wind turbines,” he said.

The tribunal continues March 2 in Toronto.

9 thoughts on “Doctor’s motivation questioned

  1. “his motivations were questioned”

    What are the motivations of lawyer Rodney Northey ? who is getting paid huge sums of money from Suncor ,
    What about the motivations of Suncor who are making
    huge sums of money off of the Ontario people .

  2. I always thought that we elected people to represent us in Government, that apparently is not the case in Ontario. We live in a dictatorship where the people who live here do not matter, as what has been proven by the McGuinty Government. If wind turbines are so good for your health, why are they not being put up along the don valley parkway or all through high park. If they are good enough for rural Ont then they are good enough to be put up in Toronto.

  3. “Northey pointed out there is no systematic epidemiological field study that proves wind turbines cause people harm.”

    I wonder if Suncor and Mr. Northey would put up some money to assist in funding an INDEPENDENT epidemiological study? {Note the emphasis on “independent”.}

    Mr. Northey’s statement would appear to show that he is very aware that such a study is needed.

    Good for Dr. McMurtry who would seem to be genuinely motivated by the intent of the “do no harm” aspect of the Hippocratic Oath.

  4. “Northey pointed out there is no systematic epidemiological field study that proves wind turbines cause people harm.”

    I thought several epidemiology studies conclusively showing a link were presented as part of this hearing???

    Deny… deny… deny… I suppose that’s what we can expect. “Cigarettes do not cause cancer”… “Cigarettes do not cause cancer”… I suppose that served the tobacco industry well for decades….why mess with a proven method?

    Bravo Suncor and MOE!

  5. Not true! Not true! Not true! Not true! Not true! Not true!

    Systematic epi studies have not yet been published…but several HAVE BEEN DONE and have been reported on.

    Dr. Nissenbaum’s study in Maine is a “systematic epidemilogical study”…results were presented at the hearing. Folks form New Zealand also presented results of “systematic epidemilogical studies” as part of the hearing. Presented studies show a very strong causal link.

    It can take anywhere from 6-18 months to get scientific studies published.

    Lets please get our facts straight folks.

    Epi studies have been done….and more are being done. There is more than enough evidence now (epi and otherwise) to demonstrate a strong association.

    This “lack of evidence” mantra is nonsense and a smoke screen by industry and the MOE. Let’s not get sucked into it as well.

  6. I’m sure we’ll hear about the need for greater sample sizes from the other side.

    The truth of the matter however… (as most 1st year epi students would know) the size of the sample needed reflects the difference between groups (exposed vs unexposed) you are trying to measure. From my understanding…both the Maine study and the New Zealand/Australia studies showed VERY significant effects even with relatively small sample sizes….further highlighting how strong the associations truly are.

    Furthermore….no one study will ever “prove” anything (another industry/MOE red herring). This is not how science/medicine works. It is the “body of evidence” as a collection that is used to evaluate causation…set policy, etc. Although that body of evidence may not be large enough to say what IS a safe setback distance….that body of evidence is definitely big enough NOW to show that 550m is not nearly enough.

    From a health perspective…. I think we should be starting to shift from “a call for more health studies” to “evidence already shows that 550 m is putting people at significant risk”.

  7. Understand this: the U.K. has a National Health Service funded by the government and it is government policy there to install ~ 10,000 IWTs. So the government dictates which health studies will be done. Health studies about IWTs are not wanted by the government as studies could upset the government’s political agend concerning IWTs.

    The same thing is true in Ontario.

  8. Yes Barbara – unless of course they are ORDERED to do appropriate studies by say, a court….maybe the Superior Court of Justice of Ontario (Divisional Court)?

    I don’t think even Dalty McGuinton could resist such a request.

  9. T3

    would the opposite of due diligence be criminal negligence?

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