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Blog: At Issue
An Ontario Regulator for Paramedics Might Makes Sense
2017 Death of Good Samaritan in the Care of Paramedics Resuscitates Debate
The death of Yosif Al-Hasnawi in southwestern Ontario in December 2017, has again sparked a debate about whether paramedics in Ontario should be self-regulated, just like most other health professions in the province.
They should be.
Two paramedics were charged with failing to provide the necessities of life in Hamilton after they allegedly acted too slowly and downplayed the severity of Al-Hasnawi's gunshot wounds. He was shot attempting to help a senior citizen who was being accosted by two men. Reports suggest that the paramedics informed Al-Hasnawi that he was faking his injuries and was only shot by a pellet gun.
Pierre Poirier, Executive Director of the Paramedic Association of Canada, argued in a recent CBC article that the accused were charged for "doing their duty" and should be judged by their peers and not face criminal justice proceedings because the public does not understand the complexities of the paramedic profession.
A regulatory body operates on behalf of government in the public interest and provides training, oversees professional standards, and manages a robust complaints and discipline process of many professions including doctors, nurses, and teachers. If such a body had existed, the argument goes, paramedics might have instead been disciplined by the body instead of being charged criminally.
I disagree. Regulatory bodies are required to enforce an Act and almost always, a Code of Ethics. Professionals who violate either of them can face disciplinary action leading to professional revocation in serious situations. However, Acts and Codes do not supersede criminal law, and the charges against the paramedics would have likely still been filed, with the regulatory body then carrying out its own disciplinary process and potential subsequent sanction.
First responders are heroes. Each and every day, they put themselves in harms way to protect us. They are to be commended for their commitment and hard work. However, those who break the law and do not uphold the standards that they are required to, must face consequences - just like people in other professions. In this case, someone innocent died, and a trial in criminal court is the most appropriate venue to hear why and who is at fault. Ontario should follow the lead of five other provinces and create a regulatory body for paramedics, not just because of Al-Hasnawi, but because, just like many other health-related professionals, people are often highly vulnerable when they need help. That's the purpose of a regulatory body, to protect the public. So while the vast majority of professionals are heroic, hardworking and upstanding citizens, the law and regulatory bodies are there to sanction the few that we, the public believe, have missed that mark.
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