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CNO must conduct independent Wettlaufer investigation before disclosing information
June 6, 2017 – Since June 1, when former Ontario nurse Elizabeth Tracy Mae Wettlaufer was found guilty of multiple counts of murder, attempted murder and aggravated assault of her patients, the College of Nurses of Ontario (CNO) has been unable to respond to many questions about the case.
CNO recognizes and appreciates the public’s desire for more information in this exceptional situation. That is why we recently asked for changes to the confidentiality requirements in the Regulated Health Professions Act.
Our proposed changes would have allowed us to give the public more information about a member who is under investigation — beyond just that we are investigating them — when there is compelling public interest. However, until these laws change, we are bound by the existing confidentiality requirements.
Now that the police investigation is complete and court proceedings are moving forward quickly, CNO has accelerated its own investigation into Ms Wettlaufer’s professional conduct.
But we can’t provide any further information at this time. Despite the outcome of the criminal case, the College’s investigations and discipline process must act independently and decisions are made by neutral and impartial committees. CNO will not discuss the specifics of this, or any individual case, until the independent committees - which are made up of nurses and public members - have made a decision. To do so would risk the integrity of the case.
What information is public?
Our public Register, called Find a Nurse (available at www.cno.org), provides all public information about every nurse in Ontario. For example, it shows when a CNO committee has referred a nurse to a discipline hearing. Discipline decisions also appear on the Register.
Discipline hearings are open to the public. At a hearing, CNO provides the discipline panel with details of the nurse’s regulatory history, which then becomes public information.
All current and newly available information about Ms Wettlaufer, including the recent criminal findings of guilt against her and information about her ability to practise in Ontario, is posted on the Register.
Since Ms Wettlaufer resigned her nursing registration on September 30, 2016, CNO’s priority has been to cooperate with the police in the criminal investigation. The OPP announced it had laid eight first-degree murder charges on October 25. After further investigation, the police charged her with four counts of attempted murder and two counts of aggravated assault on January 13, 2017.