Saturday, September 29, 2007

Goudge Inquiry Faces Legal Challenge;

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario is challenging the Inquiry's summons to produce "copies of complaint files and systemic documents."

According to a note recently published on the Inquiry's Web-site, the College is concerned that release of the documents would violate the confidentiality provisions set out in Section 36 of the Regulated Health Professions Act.

Oral submissions are to be heard by the inquiry on Thursday October 4, based, in part, on written submissions to be filed by the lawyers for the College and for Doctor Smith.

Dr. Charles Smith was the subject of three complaints to the College which is the governing body of the medical profession in Ontario.

The three complainants were initially denied satisfaction after a College complaint's committee ruled that it had no jurisdiction over Dr. Smith saying, Dr. Smith's involvement was underaken as an agent of the Chief Coroner's office.

However, they complainants appealed the Committee's ruling to the Health Professions Appeal and Review Board.

On Feb. 3, 2000, the Review Board sent the complaints back to the Complaints Committee, on the basis that, "while there may be overlap with regard to Dr. Smith's accountability to both the Coroner's office and the College, the involvement of the Coroner's Office does not displace the College's responsibility to govern its members."

The three Review Board members noted in their 6-page decision that one of the complainants was informed by letter that, "on March 10, 1998, the College received correspondence from the Chief Coroner stating his posiion that the College had no jurisdiction to investigate the conduct of a physician who was fulfilling a function as a representative of the Coroner, and the Committee directed that the issue be raised with the College's Executive Committee for clarification of the College's policy on the issue."

After a panel of independent experts reviewed the evidence, the Complaints Committee, ordered Dr. Smith to attend in person before the College to receive a "caution" after ruling in all three cases that, "the Committee is extremely disturbed by the deficiencies in his (Smith's) approach..."

"A caution in person is a serious outcome for members of the medical profession," the Complaints Committee ruled in all three cases. "It is a tangible symbol of the disapproval of one's peers and a sharp reminder about the need for improvement in future practice."

Transcripts of Thursdays hearing are expected to be posted on the Inquiry's Web-site the next day.

Harold Levy