Registrar's message

Maintaining public confidence in professional regulation: it starts with you

The College is among a large number of professional bodies in Canada that have been given the authority to regulate in the public interest—an important responsibility the College takes very seriously.

It is easy to grasp that regulators exist to provide public protection, yet few make a connection between regulation without interference, and how it relates to the strength of that protection. What if, for example, all regulators were to be controlled by the government, or even industry? Undoubtedly, questions would be raised over the profession’s accountability, which would result in diminished public confidence. This is why it is essential that the College, by its own will, carry out its mandate to establish, monitor and enforce professional standards amongst its registrants. However, the College’s ability to fulfill that mandate is dependent on the involvement and full engagement of all registrants.

Currently, the College is investigating numerous complaints where a registrant’s failure to reply in a timely way to communication from the College and to cooperate with the College in its investigation process has become an issue. A failure to respond to or cooperate with the College is a serious matter, which may lead to allegations of unprofessional conduct separate from the matter being investigated.

The continuity of professional self-regulation hinges on each registrant’s commitment to work with the College to keep patients safe and protected. Professionals have an obligation to cooperate with their governing body in an investigation, and this duty is vital for the governing body to discharge its function of overseeing the conduct of its members in the public interest.¹ In the written reasons, a 2014 decision made by a panel at the College of Dental Surgeons of British Columbia cited case law to provide authority for the general proposition that, “a professional has a duty to cooperate with his or her regulatory authority and that it is an offence to fail to do so.”² That sentiment is echoed in the CMA Code of Ethics article 46, which states that physicians have a duty to “recognize that the self-regulation of the profession is a privilege and that each physician has a continuing responsibility to merit this privilege and to support its institutions.”

Registrants are reminded of their legal, professional and ethical duty to cooperate fully and respond to all communication from the College in a timely manner. This includes registrants’ obligations to respond promptly to concerns regarding their professional conduct or medical practice when called upon to do so.

As stated above in the CMA Code of Ethics, the College’s ability to regulate the profession is a privilege, and much like all privileges, it can be revoked. This autonomy plays a major role in maintaining public confidence in the College. To borrow the aphorism from the legal community, not only must protection be carried out, it must also be seen to be carried out.

H.M. Oetter, MD

1. Law Society of British Columbia v. Cunningham {2007} L.S.D.D. No. 157
2. College of Dental Surgeons of British Columbia v. Kaburda

We welcome your feedback on any article contained in the College Connector.