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Drug lab’s woes call for strict quality control

Re “Pattern of neglect at state drug lab found” (Metro, March 5): That a sole “bad actor” could corrupt a state drug lab is cause for dismay, not relief. It means that the lab is only as reliable as its worst worker.

Confidence in a lab’s work comes from robust and transparent quality control, not from trust in a perfect workforce. Known drug-free samples should be continually sent to the lab as part of its normal workload; if any are reported as drug-positive, an investigation should ensue. Such measures could have quickly caught Annie Dookhan’s malfeasance, as well as any unintentional sloppiness.

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The extra cost of such auditing is easily justified by the immense financial and human cost of forensic errors. Jurors in drug trials should acquit unless the reliability of state lab reports is confirmed by the testimony of independent auditors.

Ilya Shlyakhter

Cambridge

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