BC Court of Appeal decision significant for regulated health professionals’ use of reserved titles

BC Court of Appeal decision significant for regulated health professionals’ use of reserved titles

The BC Court of Appeal has ruled that Pashta MaryMoon cannot use the title “death midwife” to describe her services. This decision is significant for all BCHR colleges.

The BC Court of Appeal has ruled that Pashta MaryMoon cannot use the title “death midwife” to describe her services. Released August 5, the decision overturns the October 2019 BC Supreme Court ruling that had dismissed an application by the College of Midwives of BC (CMBC) to prevent MaryMoon from using the title.

The decision orders a permanent injunction against use of the “death midwife” title by MaryMoon.

This decision from BC’s highest court is significant for health care regulation in BC, as it affirms the enforceability of section 12.1(1) of the Health Professions Act (HPA), which addresses the exclusive use of specific titles by registrants of a health regulatory college.

Recognizing the importance of the use of reserved titles to inform and protect patients against individuals who may be using a reserved health professional title without meeting the necessary college requirements, five BC health regulatory colleges had intervenor status in the Court of Appeal case – BC College of Nursing Professionals, College of Dieticians of BC, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of BC, College of Psychologists of BC, and College of Speech and Hearing Professionals of BC.

Read the full BC Court of Appeal decision.

Background

The title “midwife” is reserved in BC for CMBC registrants. In 2016, the College sent MaryMoon – a non-registrant – a letter that asked her to stop using the title “death midwife”, which she declined to do. MaryMoon said she has been providing “death midwife” services for more than 40 years, and her work has nothing to do with delivering babies or health care.

In 2018, CMBC applied for an injunction to prevent her from using the title, on the basis that “midwife” is a reserved title and pursuant to the HPA. The 2019 BC Supreme Court decision found that MaryMoon contravened section 12.1(1) of the HPA by using the title, but it also declared that this part of the HPA violated her constitutional right to freedom of expression under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and therefore had no force or effect.

CMBC and BC’s Attorney General Ministry appealed this decision, which led to a hearing and the release of the August 5 decision from a three-judge panel of the BC Court of Appeal.

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