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Apology accepted OR still file a complaint?


So, I guess Canadians AREN’T as apologetic as our overly-polite stereotype expresses… An unfortunate case of an Ontario hospital and a few of it’s staff of nurses and doctors were in trouble for the care they provided (or lack there of) towards a female patient was left unapologized for. The hospital even hired a huge Toronto-based law firm to attempt to hide the story. Thankfully, they lost. 

“Between 10% and 20% of patients are believed to suffer some harm as a direct result of receiving healthcare, especially in hospital.”

Regulatory bodies across Canada have been established partly to help manage this exact problem. For regulatory bodies to be able to do something about it however, complaints must be reported by victims or they’ll go without penalty until they are somehow brought to attention. In the UK, the doctors, nurses, and midwives of the National Health Service (NHS), are being required to apologize to any patients or any families of patients where mistakes ocurred that result in injury or death. The General Medical Council (GMC) is a regulatory body in the UK that sets standards to protect patients.

The GMC decided that for any mistakes made by doctors, nurses, and midwives, they must verbally apologize and explain the mistake they made immediately. They are also told to use everyday language over any medical terms to make sure the mistake is understood clearly. This rule has been implemented because they believe it will reduce the number of negligience claims they will receive. This would be because victims would (hopefully) feel the sincerity of the professional and (hopefully) see that the mistake was truly that, a mistake. The professionals are even asked to not look at their mobile devices or pagers while doing the apology to increase authenticity of the apology.

Apologizing in Canada

In Canada, only eight provinces and one territory have so far implemented the “apology legislation”. It has been encouraged to the rest of Canada to adopt this law. This law has different purposes than the one in the UK, it’s main purposes are that an apology:

  • does NOT constitute as an admission of fault or liability
  • must NOT be taken into consideration to determine fault or liability
  • is NOT admissible as evidence of fault or liability

Basically, it protects the professional after apologizing because the patient cannot use the apology against the professional in court, but only in the locations where this legislation is adopted. The Canadian Medical Protective Association (CMPA) also believes an apology will be appreciated by patients, however, it is not mandatory for a physician to practice apologizing.

Complaint/Discipline Management

An apology doesn’t cure death or permanent disability, so there will likely always be complaints – hopefully just fewer. Regulatory bodies can use software that incorporates features that assist with the tracking and management of complaints and discipline. This helps the organization know who is under investigation or suspension, and the employer of the professional that he or she has acted unethically.

How are complaints even dealt with, you wonder? Well, regulatory bodies have committees for various reasons such as registrants, events, social, investigations, complaints, and more. When a complaint is submit with required proof, the complaint committee, comprised of internal members, will review it and then pass it to the investigation committee who will investigate the people involved and what happened in the complaint. There is often a separate committee that deals with making the decisions as to what route they will take to deal with the offender and what reward the victim will receive.

In upcoming blog posts we will talk about the complaint process and how regulatory management software applications should track complaints.


Some might say this is could give the professionals and hospital a chance to get away with some serious mistakes by not properly compensating the victim or his or her family. The purpose of the rule is to decrease the amount of money that goes towards negligence claims. What do you think about the UK’s apology rule? Should it be considered for Canada?