As with many high-profile cases, the trial of Elizabeth Wettlaufer, a nurse accused of killing eight elderly patients in southern Ontario, has quickly become a media sensation. But aside from the headline-grabbing details of her crimes, Wettlaufer’s trial has revealed an insidious story of regulatory failure and enablement. Though she committed dozens of infractions that any medication error lawyer could recognize as malpractice, the bodies responsible for punishing negligent and incompetent medical professionals allowed Wettlaufer to continue working.

According to the Toronto Star, Wettlaufer abused stolen narcotics, “came to work late, took long breaks, made many medication errors, made desperate residents wait for pain medication and even oxygen, exposed herself to a co-worker, taunted residents, once pierced a hematoma with scissors not confirmed as sterile, and forgot a resident’s eye wound.”

In other words, the nurse was harming patients even when she wasn’t committing murders. For an Ontario medication error lawyer, these actions are cut-and-dried examples of breached standard of care.

The Star also reports that Wettlaufer was protected by her nursing union, the Ontario Nurses Association (ONA), and ignored by the College of Nurses of Ontario (CNO), the industry watchdog. The ONA not only delayed Wettlaufer’s firing from Caressant Care, the long-term care facility in Woodstock, Ontario, where she committed most of her murders, but managed to secure a severance package and letter of recommendation that enabled her to continue practicing. It also managed to replace proposed suspensions with official warnings.

Caressant Care itself is not blameless: a public inquiry recently heard that only 10 medications errors of the 44 contained in Wettlaufer’s employment record were reported to the College of Nurses of Ontario. The CNO did not launch an investigation based on the 10 reported incidents.

When a patient enters a doctor’s office, hospital, or long-term care facility in Ontario, they have a right to expect a certain standard of care. The medical professionals who treat them must deliver the level and type of care that can be reasonably expected of a competent professional in a similar position. When this standard is breached, a medical malpractice or medication error lawyer may help you pursue compensation.

As the Toronto Star revealed in its illuminating Medical Disorder series, which we discussed recently in this blog, too many Canadian physicians are able to commit medical malpractice and continue working with patients. As the Elizabeth Wettlaufer case confirms, when regulatory bodies fail to address errors and incompetence, patients suffer.

If you or a member of your family has been injured as a result of medical negligence or malpractice, contact Neinstein Personal Injury Lawyers today to arrange a free, no-obligation consultation. An experienced medication error lawyer can help you understand your legal options and guide you on your road to recovery.

Greg Neinstein

Greg Neinstein, B.A. LLB., is the Managing Partner at Neinstein Personal Injury Lawyers LLP. His practice focuses on serious injury and complex insurance claims, including motor vehicle accidents, slip and fall injuries, long-term disability claims and insurance claims. Greg has extensive mediation and trial experience and has a reputation among his colleagues as a skillful negotiator.
Greg Neinstein