Investigation finds lack of accountability in Canadian medicine

Canada’s health care system is a “large black hole of secrecy” that won’t change unless the public demands accountability from its governing bodies, said Ryerson instructor Robert Cribb, at a panel at the school Tuesday.

Cribb, who is also an investigative reporter at the Toronto Star, and Joel Lexchin, an emergency physician at the University Health Network and professor at York University, have researched secrecy in Canadian medicine.

From left to right, James Turk, Robert Cribb and Joel Lexchin were panelists at the

From left to right, James Turk, Robert Cribb and Joel Lexchin were panellists at the event, Medical Secrets.

At the event, Medical Secrets, which was organized by the Faculty of Communication and Design, the two spoke about Health Canada’s withholding of information.

Cribb focused on the Canadian Institute of Health Information, Canadian Blood Services and the Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons, the latter of which distributes licences to doctors in the province. All three institutions are exempt from the Access to Information Act. Also, 99 per cent of complaints against doctors are ignored, which allows those in question to continue their practice, Cribb said.

For example, after the college found a doctor — nicknamed “Butcher Bradley” by nurses at his hospital — guilty of negligence leading to the death of a patient in two separate cases, he was banned from practicing in Ontario. However, it refused to warn other jurisdictions due to “(concerns) about his privacy.” He later moved his practice to Virginia in the U.S., where he was later found responsible for the death of four other people.

“This is a scandal by any measure,” Cribb said. “The only thing that doesn’t make it (one) is that people don’t seem to care.”

While some doctors are protected by the institutions, some suffer. Lexchin talked about Health Canada’s role in keeping drug information secret from not only the public, but doctors.

Although pharmaceutical companies have to submit clinical studies of their drugs to Health Canada for approval before entering the Canadian market, it’s all classified as “confidential business information.”

“They’re keeping secret how (well) the drug works and how safe it is,” Lexchin said. Doctors have to refer to results released by the Food and Drug Administration in the U.S. if they want that information.

This event was part of the Distinguished Visiting Professor Speaker Series, hosted by the Faculty of Communication and Design and James Turk, the former executive director of the Canadian Association of University Teachers. Events in the series are tweeted with the hashtag #right2know.

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