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Doctor Red CardA common question that I get from potential clients is, “I’m not a bad driver, so why was my license suspended after going to the hospital?”

The truth is that medical license suspensions have nothing to do with how good a driver you are.  You don’t even have to have been driving in order for a doctor to suspend your license.  The Ministry of Transportation for Ontario uses doctors as their big net to catch a number of medical conditions that have a serious effect upon driving.  The list is quite extensive:

 

 

 

  • Alcohol Dependence
  • Drug Dependence
  • Seizure(s)–Cerebral
  • Seizure(s)–Alcohol related
  • Heart Disease with feelings of weakness, fainting, or arrhythmia
  • Blackout or Loss of consciousness or Awareness
  • Stroke/TIA or head injury with significant deficits
  • Both Visual Acuity and Visual Field Impairment
  • Visual Acuity Impairment
  • Visual Field Impairment
  • Diabetes or Hypoglycemia–Uncontrolled
  • Other metabolic diseases
  • Mental or Emotional Illness–Unstable
  • Dementia or Alzheimer’s
  • Sleep Apnea–Uncontrolled
  • Narcolepsy–Uncontrolled
  • Motor Function/Ability Impaired

The reason why comes from section 203 of the Highway Traffic Act that states doctors must report to the Registrar of Motor Vehicles any clinical conditions that the person, licensed or not, “is suffering from a medical condition that may make it dangerous for the person to operate a motor vehicle.”

My thoughts on this is that doctors are put into a conflicting situation.  On the one hand, there is an ethical duty not to divulge private medical information to anyone.  On the other, the doctor has a legal duty to protect the general public.  You could even add another hand in cases where the clinical conditions are temporary, should the doctor wait and find out the final diagnosis?  The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) has published a guide for doctors to help them with what kind of maladies should be reported to the Ministry of Transportation.  The guide recommends that doctors report any medical condition that poses a risk to the driver or to road safety in general.

Another problem is the Medical Condition Report itself.  It is a check-box form with extremely limited space to explain the reasons for the diagnosis.  When the form is submitted to the Ministry, the Registrar of Motor Vehicles suspends your license immediately and the doctor gets paid $36.25 per form by OHIP (Ontario started doing this in 2006 as they were worried that too many drivers were being missed; the number of forms submitted by doctors has doubled since then).  Then they move on to the next case.  The suspended driver is now left to regain his driving privileges, sometimes without the support of the originating diagnosing doctor.  In my experience, when these forms are filled out, they are generally lacking in sufficient detail to help explain the doctor’s decision.

Drivers affected by a driver’s license suspension for medical reasons can obtain a copy of that report through the Freedom of Information & Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA).  You can fill out an online form here and print it at home, or you can write a letter detailing your request to the following address:

  • MINISTRY OF TRANSPORTATION
    Freedom of Information and Privacy Coordinator
    777 Bay Street, 27th Floor
    Suite 2703
    Toronto, Ontario M7A 2J8
    Phone: 416-212-1923

The Ministry can deny your request if the doctor has indicated on the form that revealing the Medical Condition Report could endanger the doctor’s, the patient’s, or some other person’s health or safety.  Each Freedom of Information request has a fee of $5.00, made payable to the Minister of Finance.

The only purpose of the form is to confirm that the doctor complied with section 203 of the Highway Traffic Act and cannot be used as evidence in any trial.

Related Posts:

Medical Driver’s License Suspensions By the Numbers

Addictions and Medical Driver’s License Suspensions

Driver’s License Suspensions Initiated by Doctors:  What You Need to Know