Maryland Public Health Agencies’ Explanations for Not Investigating Louis Lowenthal Death Don’t Hold Water — What Is Behind Their Undue Discretion?

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The following text was emailed to Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, Maryland secretary of health, and Dr. Oxiris Barbot, Baltimore commissioner of health.


I am addressing this to both of you, since there is some confusion with respect to regulation of public pools in the city of Baltimore. The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene told me that such regulation is delegated by the state to the city. The Baltimore Department of Health told me that its pool regulations “are nearly identical to State regs and primarily concern the structure and the facilities, safety equipment needs etc., appropriate chlorine levels and so forth.”

I have two outstanding questions. plans to publish your responses around noon Eastern time Monday.

1. Will either of your agencies consider releasing an unredacted, or less-redacted, version of Meadowbrook Aquatic Center’s incident report in last October’s drowning death of Louis Lowenthal? I am not persuaded by the explanation I was given for many, or perhaps all, of the redactions, and I contemplate pursuing an appeal under public information law if the current level of release stands and the reasons for redactions are not more compellingly justified.

2. Any suggestion that health agencies, whether state or local, are not empowered to follow up with Meadowbrook in the matter of a death incident report is nonsense. My crude research shows that “an inadequately protected swimming pool” is the first in a list of 14 examples of a public health “nuisance” under § 20-301 of the Maryland code. Though it is true that the bulk of the following statutory language deals with sanitation, there is no question that the Secretary of Health has the authority, in appropriate circumstances, to inspect, investigate, serve written notice on the perpetrator of a nuisance, or even file a complaint with the county circuit court to seek fines or other relief. The state and local health authorities have chosen not to do so in the Lowenthal/Meadowbrook matter. On what basis was that choice made?

Irv Muchnick
[email protected]

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Concussion Inc. - Author Irvin Muchnick