This is the last in our series of six stories about the Canadian Medical Protection Society.
It is a common misconception that the CMPA provides doctors with insurance. They don’t. The CMPA has repeatedly insisted that it is not an insurance provider, and at least one court agrees.
A New Brunswick woman sued her psychiatrist who over drugged and sexually abused her and then threatened her with the nightmare of involuntary incarceration in a psychiatric facility if she told anyone what he was doing. Was she harmed? Of course, she was. She was driven to a suicide attempt which caused her serious physical damage and which very nearly cost the poor woman her life. She won her case and was awarded roughly $600,000 that she was then unable to recover from the psychiatrist because the sniveling coward fled the country leaving no assets behind. The woman looked to the CMPA for these damages, arguing that the CMPA was this doctor’s insurer. The CMPA asserted that it is not an insurer and that furthermore, it is entirely within their discretion as to whether any claims are paid. The CMPA’s position was upheld in The Court of Queen’s Bench of New Brunswick and the victim of this predatory psychiatrist remains unable to collect the damages awarded by the Court.
Now here is an interesting fact. In Ontario, the College of Physicians and Surgeons carefully words one of the requirements for registration, saying the doctor “must hold professional liability protection”. Most people would think that it means that the doctor has to be insured. The College names membership in the CMPA as fulfilling that requirement even though the CMPA does not provide insurance, as they’ve said over and over. Paying compensation to injured patients is entirely at the CMPA’s discretion. Furthermore, unlike real insurance companies, the CMPA does not raise the fee for doctors who have been found at fault (which is just as well since you and I are footing the bill anyway).
A huge percentage of Canadian doctors are members of the CMPA so the chances are that the doctor you’ve just been to see is not insured.
Membership in the CMPA doesn’t count as insurance, as the CMPA is decidedly not an insurance provider. They are a defense organization for screw-up doctors whose lawyers savagely attack those with the temerity to suggest that the doctor was fallible.
Perhaps we should have a Canadian Patient Protective Association with a huge government-funded war chest for the benefit of those who have been harmed by negligent doctors.
Failing that, there are a few things that must happen:
1. The Colleges must stop naming CMPA membership as providing adequate liability protection for doctors. CMPA certainly protects the doctors with high-priced lawyers, but it sure does not protect the patient who has been damaged nor does it protect the family of the patient who has been killed outright by a doctor’s error.
2. Doctors must be obliged to carry real medical malpractice insurance from a real insurance company, just like anyone else who is required to carry professional liability insurance. There are obvious advantages to this:
(i) Doctors, and therefore their patients, would have actual liability insurance coverage. Compensation to patients would be on the basis of the merit of their case, not on the “if we feel like it” discretionary basis of the CMPA.
(ii) Those doctors who repeatedly commit errors would be treated as any other insured against whom repeated claims are made. The first time the insurance company had to pay out, they’d up the premiums. The second time the insurance company had to pay out, they’d decline further coverage. And wouldn’t that help to weed out the doctors who really ought not to be allowed anywhere near a patient.
3. The government must stop liberally bestowing our hard-earned dollars upon this cash-bloated protectionist organization. If the doctors want to pool their money for lawyers, let them. It’s probably a good idea. But let them bear the expense themselves. Why do we have to pay for the insult-added-to-injury scenario that presents so often when a patient has been harmed?
Let’s level the playing field here for injured patients seeking rightful recompense.