Lawyers criticize loophole that allows groping doctors to still practise

Groping is not spelled out as an offence doctors can lose their licence for. (Photo: iStock)
Groping is not spelled out as an offence doctors can lose their licence for. (Photo: iStock)

Toronto-area lawyers are calling for changes to the way doctors are punished for sexual abuse after a doctor who groped four female patients will be allowed to continue to practise.

Recent media coverage of Dr. Javad Peirovy has led to critiques of the way doctors are disciplined in the province.

In 2015, a discipline committee for the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario found Peirovy had sexually abused four patients. In a summary, the discipline committee outlined how Peirovy had inappropriately touched the breasts of three patients and put his stethoscope on another patient’s nipples, even though no clinical reason existed to do this.

As a result of the sexual abuse, Peirovy lost his registration for six months, will now have to have a practice monitor with him in the room when he is treating female patients for at least a year, and have to post a sign stating he cannot be alone in any examination or consulting room with a female patient.           

Amani Oakley, a senior partner with Oakley and Oakley PC, says it’s “very disturbing” a doctor like Peirovy can continue practising. In her opinion, the discipline committee has the discretion to pull a doctor’s licence for groping. 
 
“It is obvious that the legislation quite clearly gives power to the discipline committee to strip a doctor of his licence to practise if he has committed an act of professional misconduct, and sexual abuse is an act of professional misconduct,” she says.

Oakley refers to the Health Professions Procedural Code Schedule 2, s. 51(5), which falls under the Regulated Health Professions Act. It says a health professional must have his or her certificate of registration revoked if he or she sexually abuses a patient, and is involved in certain types of physical contact, like sexual intercourse or masturbation.

However, the section does not spell out that a certificate should be revoked if groping occurs.       

“Sadly, this case points to a problem I have commonly seen with respect to the actions of the CPSO and the discipline committee,” says Oakley. “Time and again, they decline to act to protect the public, despite having authority already granted to them, and they seek to hide behind an argument that they need more explicitly directed powers. They don’t.

“Sadly, this appears to be another example of a wrong-headed refusal to step forward on behalf of a vulnerable public, despite the fact that the government has provided the CPSO and the discipline committee with more than ample tools to protect patients sexually groped by a physician.”

Paul Harte, of the Paul Harte PC, says s. 51 should be amended, and that “sexual abuse is a fundamental breach of a physician’s fiduciary obligations.”

“What’s frustrating is, it’s such an easy fix,” he says.

“What they need to do is take away those specified acts, and simply make it sexual abuse, so any physical contact of a sexual nature should be sexual abuse, and where a committee finds sexual abuse, there should be an automatic revocation.”

Kathryn Clarke, CPSO spokeswoman, says the college is reviewing the decision in the Peirovy case and “considering whether to appeal the penalty in this case.”

Clarke says there is “30 days from the date of the decision to decide whether or not to appeal.”

“The college’s prosecutor sought revocation in this case, and submitted that in addition to revocation, Dr. Peirovy should also be reprimanded, that he reimburse the college for funding for counselling provided to patients, that he post security to satisfy these obligations, and that he pay the costs of the hearing,” she says in an e-mail to Legal Feeds.

She says the college “is disappointed in the discipline panel’s decision not to revoke Dr. Peirovy’s licence.”  

“Our governing council supports revisions to the legislation that would require mandatory revocation in any case where physical sexual contact with a patient is proven to have occurred . . . presently, mandatory revocation applies only to sexual acts specified in the legislation.”

This article originally appeared on Legal Feeds, the blog of Canadian Lawyer and Law Times.
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