January 15, 2013

Sexual Abuse by Doctors Continues to be a Problem in Canada

Sexual Abuse By Doctors

Google analytics tells me that the section of my blog is devoted to addressing the topic of Doctor Sexual Abuse tends to be the most frequently read of all the articles I have posted over the six years I have been writing this blog.

What that tells me is that there are a lot of people out there searching for information about this issue.

Common Cause for Discipline

Sexual abuse of patients is one of the most frequent reasons for discipline of doctors by the various provincial authorities that regulate doctors.

According to a recent CBC news report, Since 2007, over 125 doctors have been disciplined in Ontario alone for sexual comments or actions against their patients.

There are currently 22 abuse allegations being investigated by the Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons.

It is a problem that stretches across the country.

For example a quick google search for results over the last six months show reports from Nova Scotia where the College of Physicians and Surgeons reprimanded Dr. Bolarinwa Oluwole for having sexual relations with patients, Ottawa: Doctor faces sexual abuse allegations and Alberta :Aubrey Levin, Psychiatrist Accused Of Molesting Patients

So why is it we haven't been hearing more about it in the media?

I think there are three reasons.

Needle in a Haystack?

First, statistics about the actual number of disciplinary charges are difficult to find. Each province has it's own College of Physicians and Surgeons that deals with disciplinary matters and there is no national registry of complaints or disciplinary decisions.

So persons investigating the issue have to search through all of the various provincial databases.

Doctors Can Avoid Hearings

Another reason is that the provincial Colleges only have jurisdiction over licensed physicians. So if a doctor resigns his or her license to practice, the disciplinary hearing is withdrawn.

This happened recently in Ottawa: Ottawa doctor quits ahead of sexual abuse hearing and appears to have happened in NL after doctor Rasheed Kadhem was charged with sexual assault:

Edward Hollett, a spokesperson for The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Newfoundland and Labrador, confirmed as well that Dr. Kadhem has voluntarily withdrawn from practice.

Re-Victimization?

Having worked with survivors of sexual abuse for 20 years now, I expect the third reason why victims of sexual abuse by doctors do not come forward is that they feel re-victimized by the process of handling the abuse complaint.

The focus on disciplining doctors (rather than addressing the harm to victims) can make the abuse survivor feel as though they are not the priority.

In the CBC story I referred to, one woman said that she felt re-victimized by the process. She alleged there were two incidents of sexual abuse by her doctor in 2002. At the end of the process the Doctor was issued a one-year suspension which he served and is now practicing again.

Trust and Authority

Doctors owe a fiduciary duty to their patients. A "fiduciary" is someone who is a position of trust and authority over another person. They have an obligation not to abuse that trust.

Doctors are obviously in a position of trust. They are frequently dealing with patients when they are most vulnerable. Doctors who have breached this position of trust should certainly be reprimanded – without the victims feeling re-victimized.

Doctor Sexual Abuse: What is it?

Sexual abuse is defined in the Ontario Health Protections Act as:

• Sexual intercourse, or other forms of sexual relations between doctor and patient;

• A doctor touching a patient in a sexual manner; or

• Behaviour or remarks of a sexual nature by a doctor towards a patient.

Breaking the Silence

Sexual abuse is a crime of secrecy. It is only by speaking out, that victims of abuse can become survivors of abuse and can prevent the same thing from happening to others.

You can look here for more information about filing a complaint with the College of Physicians and Surgeons.

If you want more information about your legal options you can read my public legal education guide Breaking the Silence: The Survivor's Guide to Abuse Compensation Claims. The book is available on Amazon, but you can get a free copy but contacting me through my website.


November 17, 2010

Canadian Abuse Survivors Speak up on Oprah Show

Perhaps it goes without saying, but childhood sexual abuse is a world wide problem.

Lat week I posted about Oprah's show about male survivors of childhood sexual abuse.

Since the show aired there have been a number of news stories about Canadian men who survived childhood sexual abuse who participated in the show.

Here is a story from The Citizen Newspaper: Ottawa Sexual Abuse Survivor Confronts Past on Oprah Winfrey Show.

The CBC reported on a gentleman from Prince Edward Island: Oprah Talks to P.E.I. Abuse Survivor

I wanted to take a moment to applaud the courage of these men and all the others who participated in the show.

The first step to stopping childhood abuse is to talk about it. To acknowlege that it happens. Only then can we as a society take steps to prevent it from happening in the future.

"Learn from yesterday. Live for today. Hope for tomorrow." Albert Einstein

November 12, 2010

Oprah Sheds Light on Male Childhood Sexual Abuse

My wife is a big fan of Oprah Winfrey. She is certainly one of the most influential people in North America (Oprah, not my wife). So I was pleased when my wife told me that Oprah had devoted two days to a show about male survivors of sexual abuse. The first part aired last week. Part two is scheduled to be aired today.

The show is about the stories of 200 adult men who were molested as children. I applaud Oprah’s efforts to encourage male survivors of sexual abuse to come forward.

Disclosure Painful

I have been representing survivors of childhood sexual abuse for almost 20 years. Having represented literally hundreds of survivors of sexual abuse I can say for a fact that male survivors of sexual abuse find it more difficult to talk about what happened to them than the female survivors that I have helped.

The First Step

The first step to stopping childhood sexual abuse is to talk about it. Talking about the reality of childhood sexual abuse will help reduce the stigma for survivors. It will help educate the public about the effects of childhood sexual abuse. It will teach parents, family and friends what to look for so you know when it is happening.

I cannot tell you how many times survivors of sexual abuse have said to me: “I thought I was the only one…”.

You Are Not Alone

If there is one thing male survivors of sexual abuse need to know is: You are not alone!

Resource Guide

Survivors often have a difficult time finding someone they can trust to talk about what happened to them. So I have prepared a resource guide for survivors of sexual abuse that lists counselors throughout Atlantic Canada who specialize in helping sexual abuse survivors. You can get a copy by contacting me.

Continue reading "Oprah Sheds Light on Male Childhood Sexual Abuse " »

September 30, 2010

Doctor Facing 29 Charges of Sexual Assault

Toronto anesthesiologist Dr. George Doodnaught Doodnaught, worked at Toronto's North York General Hospital.

Charged With Sexually Assaulting Sleeping Patients

Doodnaught was charged six months ago with sexually assaulting three of his female patients while they were under anesthesia.

Police laid 26 additional charges on Thursday, after 26 more women came forward with further allegations of sexual assault.

Lawsuit Filed

26 of the women have filed a civil suit agaist the hospital. They are represented by my colleague Darcy Merkur at the Toronto firm, Thomson Rogers. I have worked with Darcy before and I can say without hesitation that the plaintiffs in this case have made the right choice.

Want More Information?

Doodnaught has been an anesthesiologist since 1981. If you were a patient of Doodnaught and have any concerns about the treatment you received, I recommend you contact Darcy.

January 28, 2010

John McKiggan Presenting at Institutional Liability for Sexual Assault and Abuse Conference

I have been invited to speak at the Canadian Institute’s Ninth National Summit on Institutional Liability for Sexual Assault and Abuse.

My presentation is Overcoming Key Hurdles in Bringing and Defending Child Sexual Assault and Abuse Claims.

The conference is taking place in Toronto April 7-8, 2010.

You can register, or get more information, here.

May 7, 2008

Psychiatrist Sued for Sex Abuse of Patient: Calgary

The Alberta College of Physicians and Surgeons has released a decision that it has revoked the medical licence of psychiatrist Jeremy Roberts.

Roberts was accused of "professional negligence and sexual abuse." A hearing found he had an inappropriate relationship with a patient that included sexual activity. The woman was not identified. The Alberta College's policy regarding doctor/patient sexual contact can be found here.

The Calgary Herald has reported that the patient that filed the complaint has filed a lawsuit against Roberts seeking compensation for sexual abuse.

The Herald reports that the plaintiff's Statement of Claim alleges that the woman went to see Roberts for treatment of anxiety, marital stress and postpartum depression. The woman had two young children and was still married when she first visited Roberts in January 2003.

Secret Marriage:

Ten months later, the woman alleges in the statement of claim, she and Roberts had sex in his office. They married in July 2005. It was only when the woman was hospitalized for harming herself, the statement of claim says, that she revealed the secret relationship.

Although Roberts has been disciplined by the College of Physicians, the facts alleged in the statement of claim have not been proven in court.

Doctor-Patient Sexual Abuse is a Persistent Problem:

This story points to a continuing problem. In a previous post I noted that the Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons "regularly" deals with allegations of sexual abuse by doctors.

In 2002 the Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons disciplined Dr. Russell Harold Frith and in 2004 they disciplined Dr. Charles Larry Leatherdale.

The Canadian Medical Association Journal has reported that in a survey of 792 Obstetricians and Gynaecologists across Canada 10% of the respondents indicated that they knew about another ob-gyn who at some time had been sexually involved with a patient!

For more information about civil claims for sexual abuse click here.

July 27, 2007

When is it okay for a doctor to have sex with their patients?

The Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons is trying to "cure" the "chronic problem" of doctors sexually abusing their patients.

This story in the London Free Press reports that the College is:

"…floating an updated set of guidelines for physicians that contains advice on when it's appropriate for a doctor to be sexually intimate with someone they medically cared for in the past or a member of their patient's family."

When is it appropriate for doctors to have sex with their patients? Let me see…how about NEVER!

The doctor-patient relationship has to be one of the most powerful of fiduciary relationships. Patients have to place their complete trust in their physicians. Can there be a more vulernable position to be in?

The article reports that:

"…allegations of sexual abuse by doctors are heard regularly by the college's disciplinary committee."

For example:

A Toronto doctor for fondling and kissing his patient's breasts and sending her an essay containing sexual innuendo.

A Whitby doctor for having sexual relations with a patient and attempting to placate her husband by offering to prescribe him medication.

The statement "First do no harm" is widely attributed to Hippocrates, author of the Hippocratic oath. Perhaps these sexually abusive physicians have never of him?