I don't think my doctor is doing a very good job, and I don't trust the doctor's diagnosis, what can I do?
When dealing with an important health issue, it may be a good idea to get a second opinion from another doctor. If the conduct of your doctor seems improper, you may file a written complaint with the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Nova Scotia.
If you submit a complaint the usual process is for the College to send a copy of your complaint to your doctor, who then has 30 days to respond. In most circumstances you will be provided with a copy of the doctor's response. The College of Physicians and Surgeons will then investigate your complaint and, depending on their findings, may dismiss the complaint, counsel and/or caution the doctor, offer mediation, require the doctor to undergo an assessment, or attempt to resolve the matter with a formal hearing.
You can contact the College's Professional Conduct Department at 902-421-2201. Please note that the College of Physicians and Surgeons does not deal with medical malpractice or negligence claims - those are dealt with by the civil courts.
Can I sue my doctor for making a mistake?
Medical professionals are highly trained, but they may still make mistakes. Not all mistakes will result in liability - meaning not every mistake will lead to a civil lawsuit. As a general rule, the courts will expect your doctor to meet the same standards as other similarly trained professionals in the same area. For example, the standards expected of a specialist in a hospital may be higher than those expected of a general practitioner in a rural clinic. Therefore, to be successful in court, you and your lawyer will need to show that your doctor's actions were below the standards for comparable doctors. Suing can be a long and complicated process. You should get legal advice before you decide what to do.
After surgery I was told that there were unexpected complications, shouldn't the doctor have warned me and can I sue for this?
It may not necessarily be malpractice if a treatment or surgery does not go as well as expected. Sometimes the body reacts to treatment in an unexpected way, or there are complications that a fully competent doctor would not have foreseen. Your lawyer's research will investigate whether your doctor should have been aware of the risks and whether you should have been warned. Based on this research, your lawyer can advise you on the chances for a successful lawsuit.
Will I be able to get copies of my medical records to support my complaint or lawsuit?
Yes, while your medical records are the property of the doctor or facility which provided the health care, you and your lawyer are legally entitled to copies. Click here for information about access to personal health records under Nova Scotia's Personal Health Information Act.
Is there a time limit for suing a health care professional?
According to a Nova Scotia law called the Limitation of Actions Act, you have two years to start a civil lawsuit, from the date you "discover" that you have a claim. If you are under 19 years of age or of unsound mind, then the two-year period starts from the time that you reach 19 or when you become mentally competent. In the meantime, however, your parent or guardian may sue on your behalf. The two-year limit also applies if you want to sue a healthcare professional other than a doctor, such as nurses.
You should always talk with a lawyer about time limits for suing, as it can sometimes be complicated to figure out when the time clock starts running. You'll find more information about time limits for suing in Nova Scotia Department of Justice publication on the Limitation of Actions law.
If I received medical treatment outside of Nova Scotia, can I sue in a Nova Scotia court?
Most likely you will have to sue the doctor where the medical services were provided. However, under some circumstances, the courts have allowed patients to file their lawsuit within their home province. This is an issue you will need to discuss with your lawyer.
Can I sue a doctor who tried to help me at the scene of an accident?
Under Nova Scotia's Medical Act a doctor who voluntarily provides emergency first aid cannot be sued. The only exception to this is where the doctor's act or failure to act would constitute negligence when compared to another doctor of 'ordinary experience, learning and skill.'