Protecting the public from risk of harm

BMJ 1998; 316 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.316.7137.1033 (Published 04 April 1998) Cite this as: BMJ 1998;316:1033

Ontario's forthcoming regulatory law protects doctors, public, and the patient

  1. Lorraine E Ferris, Asssociate professor, faculty of medicine, University of Toronto
  1. Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences, North York, Ontario, Canada M4N 3M5

    In autumn 1997 an expert panel representing five medical colleges and associations in Canada recommended unprecedented changes to the Ontario Medicine Act. These changes, now being implemented, will give the province's 20 000 doctors a mandatory duty to inform the authorities when a patient threatens serious harm to others and the doctor believes that violence is likely.1 This new duty clears up previous contradictions in the law and will benefit doctors, their patients, and potential victims of violence.

    The recommendations stem from the panel's conclusion that protecting the public from serious risk of harm should override a patient's right to confidentiality. They are intended to (a) protect the public from serious harm, (b) prevent patients from harming themselves by carrying out a serious threat, and (c) protect doctors from legal and professional liability when they disclose information in good faith in line with the newly defined professional standards. Doctors are protected if they take every practical precaution to avoid inaccuracy …

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