Thursday, September 24, 2009

Just Because I Said I Was Sorry, it Doesn’t Mean it Was My Fault

British Columbia started it, Saskatchewan and Manitoba followed, and now the Yukon Territories and Ontario are looking to join in on the “I’m sorry, but that doesn’t mean it’s my fault” legislation – otherwise known as the Apology Act. Bill 59 passed its second reading on May 15th, 2008 and is now in front of the Standing Committee on Social Policy for fine tuning before heading to the Third Reading and Royal Ascent. (Let’s not forget our neighbours to the south, where 35 States have some form of apologetic legislation). This particular piece of legislation is applicable only in civil matters and not criminal proceedings.
On the surface this seems like an appropriate piece of legislation, given that according to the 1999 American Bar Association Journal, 30% of plaintiffs would not have sued if an apology was given. Furthermore, published in the 2003 American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education 37% of patients and family members suing may not have done so if an apology and an explanation was provided. Seems odd though that there are no Canadian Statistics on the impact of an issuance of an apology in advance of a lawsuit.
The move to bring this legislation into Law, is to allow compassion to be given without the fear of retribution based on an apology being interpreted as an admission of guilt. Due to the escalating civil suits which are realizing an increased monetary settlement or award, saying ‘sorry’ was used as a leverage to assign blame and guilt. Thinking back, if this was truly the case, then all those who expressed sorrow when my cat Tabitha died by saying “I’m sorry your cat died”…I should have sued them, because they just admitted guilt in the cause of her death! Yet I digress…
While those in the medical field are applauding this piece of legislation, it’s unfortunate that it becomes necessary to authour a law making it okay for a surgeon to say their sorry when someone dies on the operating table, regardless of fault. Consequently, the option is on the side of caution by not expressing any remorse for the loss, and leaving those behind to figure out whether the surgeon really cared or not. The impact of this legislative piece is still to be realized, but because this applies only to civil cases, their remains some questions surrounding cases which appear before both the criminal and civil courts. If a driver apologizes for hitting a pedestrian in civil court, knowing that it is not admissible in the proceedings, does that put the driver at risk in the criminal courts as this Act would inapplicable in the criminal system?
The larger concern could stem from ‘false apologies’ that could appear as a means to appease mourning family members. If Bill 59 was to pass making it okay to say sorry without fear of civil reprisal, than what is to stop medical institutions from issuing a blanket “Just Say You’re Sorry” Policy…diminishing the real intent of a truly remorseful medical individual.I’m sorry for this piece… it’s not my fault!!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Harmonization – A word only singers should use, not the taxman!

It is said that there are two things in life unavoidable – death and taxes. It’s really unfortunate that taxes have become such a mainstay in our lives to become unavoidable, heck even acceptable in some cases. Have you ever purchased something of value and paid no tax? Yep, me neither. Somehow those merchants who advertise with gusto “save the tax” or “we’ll pay the tax” manage to still charge us the tax on our bill of sale.

Ontario is poised to follow our neighbours to the east, Quebec and the Atlantic Provinces, with the introduction of the HST, or Harmonized Sales Tax on July 1st, 2010. Some promoters of the new taxing system will even go further to tag it a Value-Added Tax…because that sounds a whole lot easier to sell!! A tax that adds value…who’d a thunk!!

The argument for the blending of the current (RST) Provincial Retail Sales Tax (8%) and the (GST) Federal Goods & Services Tax (5%) is that this “Made in Ontario” solution will “help make businesses more competitive domestically and internationally.” This said according to the website The proponents for HST and the Ontario Liberals cite the success of the HST in the Atlantic Provinces as it’s reasoning for the blending of taxes. As is usual with other Liberal party reforms, they’ll lean to an academic report as their source of information. In this particular case, they point to “Lessons in Harmony: What Experience in the Atlantic Provinces Shows About the Benefits of a Harmonized Sales Tax”, written by Michael Smart out of the C.D. Howe Institute.

Unlike other reports written by professors this one is only 28 pages in length, so one can read it fairly quickly and easily. Smart runs through a gambit of examples on the successes of HST as felt by the Atlantic Provinces, and leave one with a fairly complacent feeling that HST is okay. That is until you reach the Appendix. Up until this point, Smart has been very clear that the figures and examples that he used are estimates, and as the reader, you don’t question the figures…until now. In the opening paragraph of the Appendix, Smart writes “…my main estimates of the investment impact of the reform may be confounded by other economic changes in the Atlantic provinces, such as the sharp expansion in the offshore oil and gas sectors in Newfoundland and Nova Scotia, and the introduction of the Atlantic Investment Tax Credit for manufacturing and processing industries in 1997.

The bottom line is that when it comes to taxes, the consumer always loses…no matter how you sugar-coat the delivery method. According to the Hamilton Spectator, they quote Revenue Minister John Wilkinson as saying “We’re still listening to music on an eight-track when the rest of the world has an iPod. We can’t attract investment and jobs in the 21st Century with a tax system from the 1960s.” Wow, Ontario must really suck at attracting businesses solely on how our tax system is managed. I guess someone at Toyota should have picked up on that one before they built their plant in Woodstock.

Perhaps it’s not the system that’s scaring investment away from Ontario, but rather the tax rate. With the new HST, consumers are going to be anteing up more at the till in some instances, with seeing little to no change in other purchases. The argument that businesses will lower their prices due to the cost savings received through the HST system falls short of an accurate depiction of business costs. The main thrust or benefit to the businesses is on capital expenditures and managing tax reporting. Speaking of tax reporting, with the new HST system, the Provincial government is providing one-time transitional funding for small businesses to cover the cost of new accounting and point-of-sale systems. (Maybe I missed something here, did we just spend more tax-payer money?)

Other business costs previously exempt from the RST, but now applicable for HST include advertising, memberships, association fees, and other services. Considering the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce is comprised of over 75% of small business, I wonder how receptive they’ll be to an automatic increase in their membership of 8% due to the HST?

The other elephant in the room is the question of proposed tax increases. Right now, with each tax applied differently it is very easy for the electorate to channel their displeasure at any tax increase. Raise the GST? (which is being strongly considered to mitigate the increased debt acquired through the recent recession) Hit up your local Member of Parliament. Raise the RST?(which is probably unlikely at this time, but there are no guarantees) Challenge your local Member of Provincial Parliament. But raise the HST? Any contemplation of this makes it way too easy for deflection of blame to the other recipient of the tax monies.

Enjoy your purchases now fair consumer, as of July 1st 2010 you'll be be rejoicing your Canadian citizenship in one breath, while cursing your choice to reside in Ontario in your next breath.

Friday, September 18, 2009

“Hi, I’m a Long Time Listener, First Time Host…Go Ahead, I’m on The Air”

I remember growing up thinking that the Radio was king. I especially loved the stories told by folks like Paul Harvey (“…and now you know the rest of the story.”), and still to this day, Stuart Maclean and his fictional family of Dave & Morley. Perhaps it’s because I come from a large family, six sisters and a brother, that radio became an integral part of my life. I so wanted to be one of those great story tellers.
As technology advanced (and I grew older), I abandoned the conventional form of radio use and fell in love with listening to radio on the internet. While I have an iPhone, I get more use out of listening to the radio than anything else the phone has to offer, and of course that includes 900CHML. I found that my passion for the radio grew stronger.
Over the last few years, I listened with admiration of past Talk Show Idol contestants and subsequent winners and wondered when I would summon enough courage to step up to the microphone. Through recent volunteer involvement, I had the pleasure of being a guest on 900CHML and found myself being like a kid in a candy store. I’d been hit by the proverbial street dealer offering me a ‘free’ chance on radio…and I found myself hooked! But if I wanted more, I was going to have to pay for it!! My payment…apply to Talk Show Idol IV. So I did.
The first step: go to 900CHML Headquarters for a group interview. While excited to get the call and the interview, I wasn’t overly concerned as I felt this was more of a ‘meet and greet’, and treated as such. That is until Andy Zimmerman, Promotions Coordinator and Jeff Storey, Program Director, advised us that they will be reviewing whether we are ‘on air’ worthy or not. After the meeting, I was excited but nervous that I may not quite have the qualities they’re looking for from a contestant.
Then came the email…Andy sends the schedule of appearances, and I get the nod as first up. Terrific - perhaps, I shouldn’t have spoken first in our group interview…oops. Now I started to worry, “what was my ‘word’ going to be on the following Monday?” I started rehearsing what I thought my word would be about…the ‘word’ I thought I was going to get was “Hamilton”. It turned out to be “Election”…oops again. Earlier that day I had nailed the morning quiz, so I was somewhat confident that I could manage these ‘tests’ Andy and Jeff were putting us through. That is until Scott Thompson said “Election”. My mind went blank and I started spewing what I thought was senseless musings about a Federal Election, not even sure if the monologue made any sense to the listeners. “Okay, I need to kick it old school”, I posted on my Facebook and Twitter status afterwards.
Choosing my topic for Friday weighed heavily on the fact that I was first up. I wanted to set a standard that would make it difficult for the other contestants following me. This was a contest after all, and I wanted to be the one to advance to the next round. So the hunt was on for the most appropriate topic that would not only set me apart from Alison, Joe and Allen…but resonate with the judges as impactful. Due to all of the volunteer work and diversified work history, I had a treasure chest of topics to choose from. In the end, I knew that if I was to have a chance at winning the week, I needed a topic that I was comfortable with; and, one that contained a supportive guest who could speak well. (I was going to be nervous enough, and didn’t want my guest to be a weak speaker.)
I called on a past acquaintance, Patrick Mathieu to be my guest. I wanted an opportunity to share with the listenership a personal side of me, and also thank the man who provided me the focus I needed to move past a personal experience. Patrick’s work in taking the topic of mortality, and using it as a positive one, having authoured “The Power of Mortality”, as well as countless speaking engagements, had had a tremendous impact on my life. Not knowing if I would ever get the chance to have time on air to share with others “The Power of Mortality”, I thought it best that this should be that time.
My “Talk Show” time went fairly well, heck, I even got a caller…something I wasn’t really prepared for, given the topic and all. The judges, Andy, Jeff and Shiona were kind to me, providing me with key points of listener management. Being first up didn’t necessarily mean that their kindness was enough to get me through to the next round, as the other contestants had not been up yet, so nothing was a given. Due to other commitments, I was only able to catch snippets of the other contestants, and what I had heard was solid enough to make the judges choice not an easy one at all.
I’d like to thank Patrick Mathieu for being my guest. You can see what he’s all about at
Thanks to 900CHML for the opportunity. To Andy, Jeff, and Shiona for their time and feedback. And of course to Matt Holmes for giving up his time slot to us amateur talk show host wannabe’s.
And of course, to the listeners of 900CHML…because without you, the station would not be the success it is today.To view other blogs by me, visit my blog at

Friday, September 4, 2009

Doctor to Patient: Electronic Connection Concerns

With today’s technology rapidly expanding with bloggers, tweeters, and instant messaging, one has to wonder how long it will take before doctors and patients start communicating via the Internet more regularly.

According to a recent article in The Medical Post, use of e-mail by physicians in order to manage patient care is indeed becoming more common. However, what’s noted is that physicians aren’t as eager to establish an electronic link with their patients. It’s the patients wanting to establish a quicker link to their medical practitioner. If you were to look at the availability of ailments, cures, medicines, and interactions on the Internet, it makes sense that patients want better links with their doctors.

A simple example case would be someone wanting to send a quick message to their doctor asking if it’s normal to feel a ‘little bloated’ while taking a new medication. Most certainly that individual could contact the pharmacy to seek support, but not all patients are comfortable with their Pharmacist…certainly not to the same familiarity as their family doc. And, because the question is a simple one, making an appointment doesn’t warrant the expenditure to obtain confirmation of the symptom being experienced.

The Canadian Medical Protective Association (CMPA), the country’s principle provider of medical liability protection for physicians is now offering support for the physicians who use e-mail to communicate with their patients. To minimize the legal liabilities associated with electronic communication between physician and patient, the CMPA has identified some potential key areas of concern. Physicians are directed to:

Ø Review the applicable federal, provincial, college, and regulatory requirements affecting the use of e-mail transmitting patient information.

Ø Consider the implications of confidentiality, privacy and security. To this point, they ask that physicians not use free-mail or internet-based services to transmit information. So for patients using Hotmail or Gmail, you’ll need to subscribe to a home based or subscriber based service.

Ø Timeliness of responses. E-mail in particular can vary in timeliness from both the sender and the receiver as firewalls, and reliance of the service provider could impede prompt communications.

Ø And, Clarity of communications. Written communication lacks emotion, including sensitivity to the recipient of the text information.

To assist physicians, the CMPA created a consent form for the physician and patient to complete, outlining guidelines for both users to follow in order to address the above risk factors.

So now comes the question in all of this: Would YOU correspond with your physician via e-mail or texting for ‘simple’ reasons (ie – setting an appointment, request for bloodwork, et al)? In today’s age of secure electronic technology, probably the bigger question is how important is it to you to have an electronic link to your physician? And, are the risks greater than the return with this ‘new’ form of communication?

Today’s physicians are managed with more complexity than days of our fathers and grandfathers. Lawsuits and patient expectations have grown as patients arm themselves with more information about symptoms and treatments available around the globe. In Canada, the government has managed to delve deeper in the management of health care as one of its prerogatives of providing the funding for all Canadians to enjoy. This means a greater workload for all physicians, who may want to opt for a more efficient means of meeting their patients’ needs.

The roadblock right now though, is the liability associated with societies growing greed to hold all liability claims (whether incurred intentionally or not) to a subjective price tag.