Medical Malpractice Claims against Doctors Continue to Drop: But is it because of improvements in medical care?

by John McKiggan

What is the CMPA?

The Canadian Medical Protective Association represents almost every doctor in Canada. The Association is a mutual defence fund that operates sort of like insurance. If a doctor is sued for malpractice, the CMPA will defend the claim and if the doctor is found liable for the plaintiff’s injuries, the CMPA will pay the compensation out of its $3 billion dollar reserve fund.

The CMPA also represents doctors in matters dealing with College of Surgeon and Physician complaints, disciplinary matters, criminal charges, and matters dealing with hospital privilege issues.

Where the CMPA differs from an insurance company is that it doesn’t have shareholders that expect it to make a profit. If an insurance company has a claim worth $50,000.00 that is going to cost $100,000.00 to defend, it makes sense to settle. It saves the company money which means more profit for shareholders.

The CMPA on the other hand can (and will) spend $100,000.00 to fight a claim that is only worth $25,000.00. That makes it very expensive for injured patients to be able to afford justice. See for example: Costs in Medical Malpractice Claims Can be a Barrier to Justice

Annual report shows an interesting trend

The CMPA’s annual report for 2013 is now available online. The report is interesting because it shows a significant drop in medical malpractice claims against physicians across the country. This is a trend that started more than ten years ago.

The report indicates that in 2013 there were just 842 medical malpractice claims filed against doctors across Canada. Compare that to more than 1,400 lawsuits filed in 1995.

The decrease in claims is even more dramatic when you consider that over the last ten years the numbers of doctors in Canada has increased by more than 50%.

So there has been a stunning decrease in the percentage of medical malpractice claims filed over the last ten years.

Has there been some miraculous improvement in health care across Canada that has led to this decrease in claims?

There is no evidence to suggest that medical care in Canada has been improving or that medical errors are happening less frequently. So what accounts for the change? I have written before about how difficult it is for injured patients to sue to recover compensation for their injuries in medical malpractice claims. You can read more here: 99% Of Potential Medical Malpractice Victims Never File a Claim!

Tax dollars pay to defend doctors

What most members of the public don’t realize is that provincial governments use public funds to reimburse doctors CMPA premiums. For example, Ontario pays 90% of the annual CMPA premiums for obstetricians in that province.

What that means is when you or your family member is injured by a doctor it is your own tax dollars that is paying (for the most part) to fight your medical malpractice claim.

Claims dropping, premiums increasing

What is also interesting about the report is that, although the number of medical malpractice claims against doctors has been decreasing steadily for the last ten years, the premiums that the CMPA charges to doctors has been increasing.

The increase in premiums appears to be connected to the increase in the defence legal costs for defending doctors in College of Surgeons and Physicians complaints, dealing with disputes regarding their hospital privileges and defending physicians in criminal matters.

Why the sweet deal for doctors?

One has to ask what the justification is for using public money to defend doctors in negligence claims.

You are required to have automobile insurance for your car. You pay for the premiums for that insurance out of your own pocket. If you get in a car accident, your insurance company will defend you and pay the claim if you are found to have been negligent. No tax dollars involved and why should it be since you and I should be personally responsible if we are negligent.

The cost of funding our car insurance comes entirely from our own pockets.

Not so with doctors. Public tax dollars are used to pay doctors CMPA premiums. If a doctor is sued for negligence, public tax dollars are used to pay for the doctors’ defence. If the doctor is found liable for malpractice, part of the compensation paid to the victim comes from premiums paid for by public tax dollars.

Does this seem fair to you?

Why should public tax dollars be used to reduce access to justice for injured patients or the families who have lost loved ones due to a doctors negligence?

Let me know what you think in the comments.

2 Responses to “Medical Malpractice Claims against Doctors Continue to Drop: But is it because of improvements in medical care?”

April 28, 2015 at 3:17 am, Emmastven said:

When entering a physician’s office or a hospital, there is an expectation that your medical provider will manage your health with compassion and thorough attention to details

April 28, 2015 at 8:52 am, John McKiggan said:

John A. McKiggan, Q.C.
McKiggan Hebert
903-5670 Spring Garden Road
Halifax, Nova Scotia B3J 1H6
Tel: (902) 423-2050 Fax: (902) 423-6707
Toll Free: 1-877-423-2050 (Atlantic Canada)

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