Former SickKids Motherisk website now directs to cannabis blog

Toronto's Hospital For Sick Children is warning the public that a website it once ran to help pregnant women and new mothers has fallen into the hands of a third party that runs a cannabis blog.

Failure to secure domain from future use was an oversight, SickKids says

The Hospital for Sick Children let the domain name for its website expire back in April. It now directs to a cannabis blog. (Blair Gable/Reuters)

A website that Toronto's Hospital For Sick Children once ran to help pregnant women and new mothers has fallen into the hands of a third party that runs a cannabis blog.

Now, the hospital is warning the public that the content on the site is not coming from SickKids. The hospital says it closed its website in April and let the domain name expire.

The blog the web address now connects to primarily discusses the use of the non-psychoactive cannabidiol that is found in marijuana.

"SickKids is aware that the website is currently being operated by a third party," a hospital spokesperson told CBC Toronto in an email statement.

"The domain name expired and was released following the closure. This was an oversight and multiple departments within SickKids are working to put procedures in place to prevent this type of occurrence in the future." 

When SickKids maintained control of the Motherisk site, it was used as a resource for information about medications and other exposures during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

But the hospital shut down its Motherisk helplines in April of this year after "grants and donations [were] reduced to zero," SickKids officials said at the time.

'We did not know,' U.S. company says

CBD Clinicals is the "third party" SickKids refers to as the new host of the domain. It's an American for-profit company that posts articles on the benefits of using cannabis for medical concerns, kids, and pets. 

According to a spokesperson for the company, CBD Clinicals had never heard of SickKid's Motherisk program and is trying to take the site down. They bought the domain based on the advice of a consultant who had noted its high metrics. 

"We did not know [of Motherisk's] history to Canadians. We are not from Canada," said Ash Aryal of Digital Spotlight, which CBD Clinicals hired to launch its website.

"After investigating, we discovered the history of this program. We have urgently redirected the domain so that it drops out of Google index for anything related to SickKids, and so that there is no confusion with people."

Aryal also noted the consultant who initially suggested has been fired.

Online records show the website was bought by an unknown entity on Aug. 10. 

SickKids recently sent a cease-and-desist letter to the website's owners.

Website caused confusion

Concerns about the website had been widely shared in parenting groups on Facebook.

Angela Grant Buechner, a registered nurse, lactation consultant and doula who runs a Facebook group called Nutmeg Moms Toronto, had posted about the website's content after another mom had flagged it to her.

Grant Buechner said when she first visited the website, she thought, "It definitely was not similar to Motherisk ... I hope people aren't going here and thinking it's the same thing."

She said new parents are already overwhelmed trying to figure out what sources they can trust on the Internet.

"I have certain sites that I would recommend. And Motherisk was always one of those because we knew it was backed by research and SickKids. It's important to have trustworthy places but it's hard when it just disappears."

SickKids advises anyone with questions about pregnancy and breastfeeding contact their healthcare providers. 

About the Author

Sannah Choi is a multi-platform journalist with CBC Toronto. She started as a TV reporter in her hometown at CBC Ottawa and has since worked on shows like Power and Politics, Ottawa Morning, Here and Now, and Metro Morning. She enjoys exploring her neighbourhood in Toronto's west end with her husband and son.

With files from The Canadian Press


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