Families Devastated by Physician Negligence Protest Lack of Accountability
The Coalition for Physician and Surgeon Oversight (CPSO.co) invites all interested parties to join them at 8:30 a.m. on Monday Oct 20, in front of 80 College St, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO) building. From there the group will walk to Queen’s Park to protest Ontario’s lack of accountability for malpractice, and to demand change.
There are no deterrents or disincentives for Doctors who provide bad care. It is practically impossible to successfully sue doctors. The Criminal Code specifically requires that medical treatments be provided with reasonable knowledge, skill and care. It defines criminal negligence as acting with a reckless disregard for the lives or safety of other persons. When death results, criminal negligence is an indictable offence punishable by up to life in prison3. So, Canadian law provides for recourse in cases of serious medical negligence, but in practice it is not used.
The CPSO is supposed to regulate the practice of medicine to protect and serve the public interest. Naturally, they protect the majority of physicians who offer their patients the best possible care. Unfortunately, they also protect the few doctors who are ignorant and careless.
The CPSO Annual report shows that of the 2,146 public complaints it dealt with in 2013, no action was taken for 1,256 (59%), and physicians were given advice, issued cautions or required to take an educational course in 828 (39%). Only 52 (2%) went to Discipline Committee and most of those ended up receiving a caution or an educational course as well. In Ontario, doctors who cause death and serious harm do not lose their licenses and seldom have practice restrictions imposed. To the CPSO, receiving written advice or taking a course is a harsh result, reserved for egregious malpractice.
Bereaved and damaged families find it upsetting that the CPSO thinks these are suitable consequences for negligence causing serious harm or death. Outraged people who appeal to the Health Professionals Appeal and Review Board quickly discover that HPARB cannot question physician decisions, and can only send cases back to the CPSO for reconsideration, which it does only 6% of the time.
The CPSO failure to serve the public interest has been known for a long time. In 1997 MPP Monte Kwinter got the Medicine Act amended to protect the right to offer alternative therapies. In 2000, Health Minister Elizabeth Witmer engaged KPMG to examine how the CPSO functions. The problems KPMG identified were never solved. The United Kingdom solved its problems by replacing physician self-regulation with oversight by an independent body. CPSO.co wants Ontario to do the same.
Julie Wood for cpso.co
(1) “The Canadian Adverse Events Study: the incidence of adverse events among hospital patients”, the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ), May 25th 2004,
(2)Over a decade ago, Professor Bruce Pomerance of the University of Toronto concluded that properly prescribed and correctly taken pharmaceutical drugs were the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S.
(3)Criminal Code of Canada, Sections 216, 219 and 220
ICRC* CPSO Disposition of Public Complaints, 2013
*Inquiries, Complaints and Reports Committee
**Health Professionals Appeal and Review Board
*** Specified Continuing Educational or Remediation Program
source: CPSO 2013 Annual Report