Medical malpractice lawyers in Ontario are finding it increasingly difficult to represent clients who have been injured by medical mistake. Prior to last month’s provincial election, the Ontario Trial Lawyers Association (OTLA) called on the Government of Ontario to require the Canadian Medical Protective Agency (CMPA) to shift its focus “from protecting negligent doctors to providing effective victim compensation.”

The OTLA’s statement, published on the association’s blog, echoes the long-held concerns of medical malpractice lawyers in Ontario who believe that the existing system is weighted against victims, due in part to the tactics of the CMPA, which provides legal defence and indemnity payments for Canadian doctors. The CMPA is heavily subsidized by the province, receiving more than $1-billion in taxpayer money over the last ten years.

As the OTLA makes clear, the Canadian medical system is a form of social contract wherein the costs of medical errors and injuries are spread among its users. Unfortunately, the CMPA doesn’t contribute to that goal, choosing instead to oppose all claims in defence of its member doctors. Between 2007 and 2011, the CMPA paid out around $167-million per year in awards and settlements while spending a little more than $89-million per year on legal costs and expert witnesses. The organization’s scorched earth tactics drive up the cost of litigating malpractice claims, making lawsuits prohibitively expensive for most victims and even most medical malpractice lawyers in the province.

“There is a complete lack of accountability for how the CMPA uses these public dollars,” the OTLA said. “Once the money is paid to the CMPA, it is out of reach of the Auditor General of Ontario.”

As a result, access to justice is inaccessible for most victims of medical mistake. Rough estimates suggest that 70,000 preventable injuries occur in Canada each year, yet only a few hundred victims receive compensation.

“The CMPA should be required to change its focus from protecting physicians’ reputations to delivering cost-effective compensation to innocent victims of a medical mistake. There is no public interest in protecting doctors’ reputations, in spite of mistake or negligence,” the OTLA’s statement concludes. “This change in focus, together with greater accountability, will result in significant cost savings -savings which can be re-invested to provide more front-line services and reduce waiting times.”

If you or a member of your family has been injured as a result of medical error, contact Neinstein Personal Injury Lawyers today. Our firm is home to some of the most experienced and accomplished medical malpractice lawyers in Ontario.

Greg Neinstein