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Often clients ask:
What is my best course of action if I want to make sure my doctor, or other healthcare professional cannot do this to anyone else?
Doctors and other regulated health professionals licenced to practice in Ontario are governed by their respective Colleges. These regulatory Colleges are responsible for any discipline or sanction of the conduct of its members. Making a complaint to one of these Colleges (depending on which professional has committed the alleged misconduct) is the best course of action if you want to seek any disciplinary sanctions.
For example, if you want to make a complaint against a doctor, you would complain to the College of Physicians and Surgeons. Only the College can discipline its doctors, including revoking a license to practice medicine, for either incompetence or professional misconduct.
To make a complaint, you would write a letter to the College of Physicians and Surgeons indicating who you are; who the doctor was that you feel did something wrong; provide a chronology or history of events and give details of your concerns and describe the impact it has had on you and your family. The College has an obligation to investigate every complaint made.
Once the College gets your complaint they will undertake an investigation which could entail ordering all of the relevant medical records, corresponding with the accused physicians and other parties who have knowledge of the incident in question and in some cases, hiring an expert in the relevant field to form an opinion on the care.
Once they have had a chance to review this documentation and once they feel they have done a complete investigation, the College will make a decision based on their conclusions. The College will not necessarily sanction or discipline the physician in question. If the College does decide to impose any disciplinary action, it will be outlined in the decision.
If you are unhappy with the decision, you can appeal it and doctors also have a right to appeal.
There is no cost to issue a complaint and you can do it without a lawyer. There is also no statute of limitations for complaints, which means you can make a complaint at any time after the incident. However, the College does encourage you to make a complaint as soon after the events in question so their investigation can be current and complete. There is no monetary compensation available under this process because Colleges do not have jurisdiction to compensate victims of medical malpractice. In contrast if you are seeking monetary compensation, a medical malpractice lawsuit is your best course of action.
The Court is the only vehicle in which to get damages or money for your losses. Remember the Courts do not have any jurisdiction to limit the doctor's ability to practice medicine. If your case does go to trial and the doctor is found negligent, there will be a written judgment which will impact the doctor and may affect laws or practices in the future. A lawsuit although indirectly, can affect how the health profession operates.
So, let me summarize, if you would like a health professional to be disciplined it is important to complain to the respective College. If you would like to be financially compensated for the damages that you sustained for any alleged malpractice, a lawsuit must be commenced.
Both courses of action can be taken at the same time, however any information garnered by the regulatory course cannot be used as evidence in your civil lawsuit. Remember, in cases where a complaint is made against a physician, the decision of the College of Physicians and Surgeons does not have any bearing on whether or not you have a case in negligence civilly.