Original Article|Articles in Press

Canadian legal cases in ophthalmology: a closer look at 40 years’ worth of data

Published:March 14, 2023DOI:



      To assess the characteristics of malpractice lawsuits against Canadian ophthalmologists and the predisposing factors leading to claims.


      Retrospective case series.


      A systematic search of the 2 largest Canadian online legal databases, LexisNexis Canada and WestLawNext Canada, was performed to collect cases against ophthalmologists in Canadian courts from 1977 to 2021.


      This study comprised 68 legal cases, including 52 lawsuits, 14 cases appealed once, and 2 cases appealed twice. Most cases concerned surgical procedures (46.2%), followed by misdiagnoses or lack thereof (32.7%) and nonsurgical procedures (21.1%). Half the cases (n = 26) were immediately dismissed by the judge in favour of the ophthalmologist, though among the remaining half that proceeded to trial the majority (88.5%) were won by the patients. All appeals by patients were dismissed by the judge. The median monetary value of damages awarded was $308,202.


      This study is the first to report on ophthalmology-involved medical litigation cases in Canada. Most cases were ruled in favour of the ophthalmologist, but most of those that were not immediately dismissed by the judge were ruled in favour of the plaintiff. Notably, a plurality of these cases argued for a lack of informed consent, and every case in which a lack was successfully pleaded was ruled in favour of the plaintiff, highlighting the importance of appropriate informed consent. The findings of this study give Canadian ophthalmologists insight into areas of practice that commonly lead to litigation and can aid in improving clinical practice and risk management.
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