06/05/2012 08:39 EDT | Updated 08/05/2012 05:12 EDT

Some doctors not reporting unfit drivers to Ontario

Physicians in Ontario are legally required to tell the Ministry of Transportation when a patient is considered unfit to drive.

However, a new study conducted by the Lawson Health Research Institute suggests some doctors are not doing this as often as they should.

Researchers found that 41 per cent of brain cancer patients receiving brain radiotherapy at London Health Sciences Centre were advised not to drive, but that only 30 per cent of these patients were reported to the Ministry of Transportation.

The rules say patients who've had seizures should automatically lose their licence. But the study found only 56 per cent of them were reported by doctors at London Health Sciences.

Lead researcher Dr. David D'Souza says there are a number of reasons why doctors fail to act.

"Sometimes, doctors don't want to upset the relationship that they're forming with the patient and their family, or take away what's perceived as their livelihood," D'Souza said. "They want to be their friend or advocate."

D'souza said in other cases, doctors just aren't sure what needs to be done.

He said what they need is a standardized tool to determine whether a person is fit to drive.

For example, the institute said brain tumours can compromise a patient’s ability to safely operate a motor vehicle. The Canadian Medical Association has drafted guidelines to help physicians assess these risks. But according to Dr. Alex Louie, a scientist at Lawson, 76 per cent of southwestern Ontario physicians caring for patients with brain cancer feel reporting guidelines are unclear.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Transporation said the government is working with the medical community to improve doctors understanding of their reporting requirements.