Despite common misconceptions, it is not a crime in Ontario to practice medicine with a criminal record. Each year, members of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, CPSO, are inquired by the college whether they have been charged with or convicted of a criminal offence.
Criminal Charges and Practicing Medicine
In cases where a physician or surgeon in Ontario faces criminal offence charges, they are obligated to disclose this information to the CPSO. The data concerning the surgeon’s or physician’s criminal offence charges are then communicated to the disciplinary committee.
Sometimes, details about the physician’s or surgeon’s criminal record may surface via a complaint made by someone knowledgeable of the criminal offence charge(s). Such complaints are typically directed to the CPSO complaints committee. CPSO, however, does not have an explicit policy regarding which criminal charges may lead to the revocation of a physician’s or surgeon’s medical licence.
The disciplinary committee retains the responsibility to determine on a case-by-case basis if the circumstances surrounding the criminal offence charge(s) and/or conviction(s) are severe enough to trigger revocation. CPSO primarily focuses on assessing the suitability of the physician or surgeon to practice medicine, taking patient safety as the main consideration in making such determinations.
The CPSO disciplinary keeps tabs on the progress of criminal offence charge(s) as these undergo processing in court. The outcome of the criminal offence charge(s) is taken into account by the disciplinary committee when deciding how the physician or surgeon should be disciplined and whether they should be permitted to maintain their medical licence.
A scenario where the courts give a favourable judgement typically translates to a favourable determination by the disciplinary committee for the physician or surgeon.
The Council of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario holds a firm conviction that all Ontario citizens hold the right to receive and/or provide health care in a safe environment, shielded from intrusions or threats to their dignity or person. This right is at par with members of the public, physicians, and allied health professionals.
Despite most physicians providing health services in Ontario having not intentionally harmed those in their care, the Council insists the process of criminal record screening forms part of its obligation to regulate physicians in the public interest, to help ensure the safety of all involved in the health system.
The Council is aware the results of a criminal record screen may not be predictive of future behaviour. They also acknowledge such screening can't assure the good character of a physician or whether he or she might present a future safety risk. However, the Council endorses the criminal record screening policy as part of its efforts to promote the safety and quality of the healthcare environment.
The Council upholds the principles of openness and accountability. Criminal record screening offers official confirmation of information already self-reported by physicians on CPSO applications for certificates of practice. This official verification enriches the transparency of College procedures and the accountability of the College and the profession to the public.
Legal Review By:
Criminal Defence Lawyer (B.A., L.L.B.)
Jonathan Pyzer, B.A., L.L.B, distinguished McGill University and University of Western Ontario alumnus, is a dedicated criminal defence lawyer throughout Ontario. Co-founder of Kostman & Pyzer, Barristers, he focuses on defending individual rights.