Doctor says regulator won't probe complaints on gun control advocacy work
TORONTO — A Toronto doctor says Ontario's medical regulator has decided not to investigate dozens of complaints made about her push for stricter gun laws.
The doctor says the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario told her of its decision yesterday.
She is a founding member of Canadian Doctors for Protection from Guns, a group calling for a national ban on private ownership of handguns and assault rifles.
Another group, the Canadian Coalition for Firearm Rights, had urged its supporters to file official complaints to the College about the physician's advocacy work.
The coalition argues doctors are not experts on firearms policy and should not be taking political positions.
In an interview with AdvocateDaily.com, Burlington compliance lawyer Cathi Mietkiewicz says the doctor’s statement suggests that the College has decided that either the complaints do not meet the appropriate definition under the Regulated Health Professions Act (RHPA), or that they are “frivolous and vexatious."
“It appears that the College has taken the view that its complaints process is not the appropriate forum for complaints about this particular physician’s advocacy work in this area. This may be because the advocacy work is not related to the practice of medicine or because the committee believes that the complaints were made for an improper purpose.
"The basis for the decision to not investigate will be set out in the notices to the complainants and the physician. Both the complainants and the physician will be given 30 days to respond to this notice from the College,” says Mietkiewicz, principal of Mietkiewicz Law.
She says the College generally addresses complaints that fall into two broad categories.
“The first category is complaints which allege 'professional misconduct' — conduct that is relevant to the practice of the profession and occur while the person is practising medicine, such as the quality of care provided,” Mietkiewicz says. “The second is complaints that allege 'conduct unbecoming' — behaviour that occurs outside the practice of the profession, where a professional has engaged in unbecoming conduct which could reflect poorly on the person and/or the profession.”
With regulated professionals, she says there are myriad behaviours that could be considered conduct unbecoming, including actions that would reasonably be regarded by peers as conduct unbecoming a member of the profession.
Mietkiewicz cites some examples:
- online posts or public statements disparaging other members of the profession that could impact the integrity of that vocation as a whole or harm those affected by the statements
- failing to reply appropriately and promptly to written inquiries or requests from the regulator
- findings by courts for such things as sexual offences, tax evasion, and assault which reflects poorly on the professional.
In its regulations or other governing documents, she says regulators often set out certain conduct that it considers to be unbecoming.
“Members of a profession should familiarize themselves with these requirements. Regulators also publish information about discipline decisions and practice directives. These can also provide important insight into conduct that is considered unacceptable by the regulator,” Mietkiewicz says.
Those who filed complaints have 30 days to appeal the College's decision.
In a statement today, the doctors' group said it is pleased by the College's decision not to pursue the more than 70 complaints made about the physician.
``[The doctor] wishes to sincerely thank Canadians for the hundreds of letters, emails, calls, and demonstrations of support and solidarity she has received in recent days,'' it said. ``The (College) decision is affirmation that advocacy for public health is an integral responsibility of physicians.''
The College said it could not confirm the details of its decision given the appeal period. Its registrar, Nancy Whitmore, has previously said the complaints process is generally intended to focus on clinical care or professional behaviour rather than political issues.
© 2019 The Canadian Press
— with files from AdvocateDaily.com