The Canadian Medical Protective Association (CMPA) is the nationalized litigation arm of the medical profession in Canada. The CMPA defends doctors who are sued in civil court for medical negligence. With equal vigor, the CMPA defends doctors charged under the Criminal Code for wrongful acts ranging from over-billing to felony crimes. The CMPA describes itself as a “mutual defence organization” for doctors.
The Canadian Medical Protective Association was founded in 1901, and incorporated in 1913. Shortly afterward, the CMPA Annual Report of 1919 spelled out their goals in chilling language.
The goals of the CMPA, then and now: To avoid a fair trial on the merits. To prevent testimony of Plaintiff experts from being heard in a public courtroom attended by journalists. The CMPA is on an implacable hunt for the win – far more so than in most civil lawsuits – with tactics that begin before the trial venue, before a Claim is even filed, when a Claim is merely contemplated.
The CMPA with single-minded, callous purpose sets out to exhaust the plaintiff's finances and spirit. These goals, expressed by the founders, continue today but the language has gradually been camouflaged. As the CMPA entered modern times and adopted modern business methods, they learned well the language of damage control – telling the public what they pine to hear.
But on their 100-year anniversary, the Canadian Medical Protective Association could not resist a brag: In 2001 the CMPA published a forthright History of the CMPA. This polished booklet of 46 pages – titled A Physician's Foresight, A Profession's Pride – tells the deeper story.
Founder Dr. R.W. Powell expressed his dream “The value for the CMPA does not exist in the fights we have put up or in the open success we have had, but rather in the silent influence we have swayed against litigants.
“These litigants have found out that our Counsel stands ready to accept service of the writ and your Executive stands ready with a bank account to furnish the sinews of war.
“Dozens and dozens of cases have thus been strangled at their inception and have disappeared like dew off the grass. This feature gentlemen is the strength and glory of your association.”
Solicitor Francis H. Chrysler, retained as the CMPA General Counsel from 1906-1934, translated the founding dreams and principles into legal processes. Said he: “The business of the CMPA was and still is protecting physicians, which it does by hiring the best legal help.
“Testament to the calibre of the legal assistance is evidenced by the number of CMPA counsel who have been appointed to the bench in provincial and federal courts through the years.”
Stacking the judicial bench: the most disturbing goal.
Speaking about protecting the rights of the individual, a Canadian Member of Parliament (MP) summed up his comments: “If the individual realizes that instead of going up against a man whom he believes to be guilty, he has to go up against a strong corporation composed of the medical men of the country, with a fund at their disposal to fight such cases, I think he will feel that an injustice is being done.”
There was also concern about recruiting physicians to support a plaintiff's case in court.
Although not members of staff, General Counsel worked so closely with the executive officers and the members in trouble, they too were seen as the face of the organization.
The role of the General Counsel was to direct the defence of all cases, appoint legal firms in local jurisdictions and make a yearly report to members on points of law affecting the practice of medicine.
This might include advising the profession on new or changed statutes impacting their practices or defining legal concepts such as negligence, standard of care and informed consent.
To discover which legal firms in local jurisdictions represent the interests of the Canadian Medical Protective Association, see our companion page CMPA Law Firms in Canada. These firms go to bat for malpractice defendants (doctors) and aggressively oppose the plaintiff (injured patient).
Tuum Est - It Is Up To You
The History of the CMPA is a 46-page glossy PDF booklet with full title:
A Physician's Foresight, A Profession's Pride: A History of the Canadian Medical Protective Association (1901-2001)
Then-president W.D.S. Thomas, MD wrote the booklet in 2001 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the founding of the CMPA in 1901.
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