When a patient in Ontario’s healthcare system suffers an injury resulting from hospital or physician malpractice, their only means of accessing compensation is through the courts: the victim will hire a lawyer and initiate the lengthy and costly process of seeking justice for their injuries.
Under the current medical malpractice system, patients and their Ontario medical malpractice lawyers face overwhelmingly odds in their fight for compensation. Canadian doctors are protected by the Canadian Medical Protective Association (CMPA), an Ottawa-based legal defence and liability protection organization with access to a multi-billion dollar war chest, first-rate defense lawyers and leading medical opinions.
However, with the impending release of a government-commissioned report on the province’s medical malpractice system, Ontario medical malpractice lawyers and their clients have reason to hope for expedited access to compensation in the future. In the meantime, Canada’s unbalanced medical malpractice system is hurting injured patients and costing taxpayers.
According to a widely-cited 2004 study, approximately 70,000 Canadian hospital patients are injured by preventable medical errors each year. Despite this number, only about 900 lawsuits are brought against physicians annually, 20 of which patients win; around 350 of which are settled out of court; and the rest of which are either won by doctors, abandoned by the plaintiff, or dismissed.
Medical professionals are growing increasingly invulnerable to medical malpractice lawsuits, as well. Over the past ten years, cases against physicians have fallen by five per cent.
In Ontario, doctors’ CMPA fees are heavily subsidized by the provincial government. Of the total $385-million in fees expected to be charged in 2017, approximately $355-million will be paid by Queen’s Park. In 2011, the province paid just $46-million. The governments of Alberta and Saskatchewan also subsidize about 85 per cent of CMPA fees.
“Every province and every territory is dealing with similar issues,” Toronto lawyer Amani Oakley recently told the National Post.
Nationwide, doctors’ CMPA fees totaled approximately $656-million in 2015, and the association also earned about $158-million in investment income. In the same year, the CMPA paid out less than $200-million in patient compensation – $42-million less than a year prior – and $170-million in legal fees and expert witnesses, the Post reports.
In total, the CMPA controls assets worth $3.6-billion. The association’s access to nearly-bottomless funds has allowed them to pursue what Oakley calls a “scorched-earth defence strategy,” wherein physicians’ lawyers “fight, fight, fight, no matter how obvious the injury is.”
Stephen Goudge report
According to the Post, Ontario health minister Eric Hoskins asked former judge Stephen Goudge to ‘find ways to reduce liability costs and improve the [medical malpractice] system’s efficiency,’ and ensure that defendants are treated fairly and allowed access to appropriate compensation in a timely manner.
Mr. Goudge is reportedly close to completing the report, which has received little media attention, and Ontario medical malpractice lawyers believe it could have a significant impact.
“In my mind, relatively simple changes could be transformative for our medical system,” said Toronto lawyer Paul Harte to the National Post.
If you or a member of your family has been injured as a result of hospital or physician malpractice, contact the Ontario medical malpractice lawyers at Neinstein Medical Malpractice Group today. They can advise you on your next steps forward and provide access to the necessary care to aid your recovery.