In advance of a recent discipline hearing before The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, College counsel served a patient, Patient “A”, with a summons to appear to give evidence before the Discipline Committee.

What Happened?

The hearing was related to a Registrar’s investigation following a mandatory report regarding alleged sexual abuse between a physician and a patient. The patient had not wanted to disclose her name to College.

After Patient “A” was served with the summons to appear before the Discipline Committee, she hired a lawyer to try to quash the summons, presumably because she did not want to testify before the College’s Discipline Committee.

The Discipline Committee refused to quash the summons and Patient “A” was required to testify at the hearing, which she did. If she had failed to attend, the College’s lawyer had previously indicated that she would have the Court to enforce the summons, meaning that a judge could have ordered that the police arrest and bring Patient “A” to the hearing.

The Discipline Committee’s reasons are not yet available, but were reported in the Toronto Star.

Broader Implications

According to the Toronto Star, the Discipline Committee stated it “is concerned that depriving the college of its ability to fully investigate and prosecute serious sex abuse allegations, based on a mandatory report from a physician, would risk rendering the mandatory reporting requirement by health care professionals toothless in eradicating sexual abuse by physicians”.

This decision may have implications for other regulatory bodies where patients are unwilling to testify, but the College wants to proceed with the investigation in the public interest.

Valerie Wise will be presenting on the topic of reluctant complainants at College proceedings at the upcoming Medico-Legal Society of Toronto’s Spring Bouquet event taking place on April 11, 2018. Further information about the event can be found here.

At Wise Health Law, we help regulated health professionals who are facing a complaint, investigation, or disciplinary hearing at their respective Colleges. We help clients understand their options, outline potential risks, guide them through the process, and represent them at proceedings. If you have questions about how we can help you, contact us online, or at 416-915-4234 for a consultation.

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