Case Summary: Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench finds investigation into physician’s alleged misconduct was adequate and dismisses application for judicial review
The applicant, Ms. Tran (the “Applicant”), sought judicial review of a decision of the Complaint Review Committee of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta (the “College”) that dismissed the complaint against two physicians involved in the care of the Applicant’s mother.
Administrative law – Decisions of administrative tribunals – College of Physicians and Surgeons; Judicial review – Procedural requirements and fairness; Professions – Physicians and surgeons
Tran v. College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta, Complaint Review Committee,  A.J. No. 515, 2017 ABQB 337, Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench, May 23, 2017, J.M. Ross J.
The Applicant was appointed guardian of her mother under a Guardianship Order allowing the Applicant to consent to any health care in the best interest of her mother. The mother was admitted to hospital and had a Do Not Resuscitate (“DNR”) code placed on her. Approximately one week later, the mother was pronounced dead. The Applicant complained to the College that one physician failed to manage the mother’s feeding tube while also complaining that the second physician improperly placed a DNR on her mother.
The College received a number of correspondence and the College’s Complaints Director (the “Director”) observed that patient care was adequate, the DNR was medically and ethically compassionate, and there was insufficient evidence to support any allegations of unprofessional conduct. As such, the complaint was dismissed.
The College’s Committee subsequently reviewed the Director’s decision and upheld the dismissal of the complaint. In the College Committee’s disposition, it concluded that the management of the DNR was appropriate, there was insufficient evidence to support unprofessional conduct, and noted that there was an inconsistency in the medical records and the physicians’ response to the complaint as the wrong box was checked on the DNR. Despite this observation, the College Committee found the Director’s decision reasonable and upheld the dismissal of the complaint.
The preliminary issue of standing was addressed given that the Alberta Health Professions Act does not provide a further right to appeal. The Court concluded that a complainant has the same interest as any member of the public and limited the Applicant’s standing to issues of procedural fairness, preventing the Applicant from reviewing the decision on reasonableness grounds. Accordingly, the duty of fairness was “at the low end of the spectrum”.
The Court observed that a significant number of the Applicant’s submissions related to the adequacy of the College’s investigation while the others related to the lack of involvement from the Applicant and the apparent summary dismissal.
The Court held that the record before it demonstrated that the underlying complaint was viewed seriously and received an adequate investigation. Moreover, there was no requirement that this complaint should be referred to a full hearing. In the result, the application for judicial review was dismissed.
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