Medical Negligence: Patients Need to Know

Medical Negligence: Patients Need to Know

As a patient seeing a doctor, I would like to know if the doctor has been previously investigated for improper conduct or medical negligence. Unfortunately, this information is generally kept secret from the public. In Ontario, doctors are a self-regulating profession. The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (“CPSO”) governs and regulates all medical doctors. CPSO makes public on its website only complaints that end up being referred to CPSO’s discipline committee after an initial investigation has been completed. The registry can be found by clicking here.

The problem: last year only 2 percent of the 2,294 complaints about improper conduct or medical negligence by doctors moved onto the discipline committee.

Not only is the public not informed about these complaints, but hospitals where the doctors practice are even automatically informed of complaints made. Currently, it is up to the individual doctor to self disclose to hospitals where they work if they have had a complaint regarding improper conduct or medical negligence made against them.

I personally saw the negative impact that this closed system can have on patients. Several years ago there was a local family doctor who was moonlighting on the side performing cosmetic surgery. This doctor had received several complaints before an investigation was eventually undertaken. However, before the formal investigation had started and after several complaints had already been made, more patients had gone to see him for surgery. The doctor’s licence to practice medicine was eventually taken from him, but not before he had damaged many patients.

Many doctors agree with open transparency but are reasonably concerned about frivolous or vexatious complaints about improper conduct or medical negligence being made public. Every professional has had a bad experience with a patient/client. I agree that the doctors should not have every complaint against them made public. However, the need to protect doctors from frivolous complaints and at the same time protect the public can be balanced by not publishing those complaints that the CPSO doesn’t even investigate because the initial complaint is determined to have no merit and is frivolous or vexatious. There is no need to publish these complaints. But for all other complaints, once referred to the discipline committee for further investigation, these need to be disclosed for public protection.

Health care is very personal. Patients should have as much information as possible about who they see for their health care. Greater transparency needs to be the goal in our healthcare system.

Kristian Bonn, Personal Injury Lawyer

Bonn Law Office, Trenton/Belleville, ON