LETTER OF THE LAW: CMPA not what it appears to be
In most instances if a patient brings a legal action against a medical doctor, the CMPA is involved. The CMPA defends the doctor and if necessary pays damages to the injured patient.
But to be clear, the CMPA is not an insurer.
This nuance may not be appreciated by the public or even by doctors. The CMPA is not required to defend every doctor or pay damages if a doctor is found liable. The CMPA can choose not to cover a particular case.
A recent legal case in New Brunswick, Shannon v. Canadian Medical Protective Association brought this message home to an injured plaintiff who was denied compensation for her injuries.
The plaintiff in that case, Shirley Shannon, was successful in her civil case against her psychiatrist for sexual abuse. Ms. Shannon won a $550,000 judgment against the doctor.
The CMPA refused to honour the judgment. Ms. Shannon brought a separate action against the CMPA for payment on the judgment. In a 52 page decision, the trial judge found that the CMPA is not an insurer and cannot be compelled to pay the judgment against the psychiatrist.
This decision raises an important public policy issue on liability insurance for doctors.
There may be a misunderstanding by doctors that even if they are members of the CMPA doesn’t necessarily mean that they are insured. It would be prudent for every doctor to have separate liability insurance and not rely on the CMPA.
I must also point out that the CMPA receives public funding from our tax dollars. In 2014, the CMPA received more than $200 million dollars from the public.
If the CMPA is receiving money from the public, how is it reasonable for the CMPA to choose not to cover some cases of doctor liability?
Being a doctor is a stressful and at times thankless profession. We should all support our doctors.
This being said, if our tax dollars are being spent to support an organization to legally protect doctors that organization should not be allowed to pick and choose when it will become involved in cases.
The protection of all doctors and their patients requires a clear understanding of when doctors are covered and for what.
Kristian Bonn is a personal injury lawyer and partner at Bonn Law. He grew up in Trenton, works in Belleville and Trenton and lives just over the Bay Bridge in Prince Edward County.
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