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Ontario medical regulator wins appeal against own committee's penalty on doctor

Ontario medical regulator wins appeal against own committee

TORONTO — Ontario's medical regulator has won an appeal of a penalty imposed by its own discipline committee after decrying the independent panel's "demonstrably unfit" punishment of a Toronto doctor who sexually abused female patients.

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario acknowledged it rarely challenges its discipline committee's decisions, but noted that penalties for such behaviour "must contribute meaningfully to the eradication of sexual abuse in the profession."

In July 2015, the discipline committee — which makes independent decisions — found Dr. Javad Peirovy sexually abused four female patients and engaged in disgraceful conduct with a fifth. The incidents took place in 2009 and 2010. Peirovy also has a criminal conviction for assault related to two of those patients.

The discipline committee handed Peirovy a six-month suspension and imposed restrictions on his practice for 12 months. It also ordered him to take training and pay $64,000 for therapy for the victims.

But the college found the penalty was unreasonable, failed to consider changing social values and was "grossly disproportionate" to the gravity of the doctor's conduct.

"This case is amongst the most egregious examples of sexual abuse by physicians and was deserving of the most serious sanction available, namely; revocation of his certificate of registration," the college argued in documents submitted in its appeal of the penalty at Ontario's Divisional Court.

In a decision released this month, the Divisional Court allowed the college's appeal, quashed the penalty imposed and sent Peirovy's case back to the committee for a new punishment.

The court's ruling also strongly criticized the discipline committee for the way it treats similar cases.

"The main justification given by the committee and (Peirovy) for the penalty imposed is that it is in line with similar penalties that have been imposed in similar cases," the court decision noted. "The facts of these cases are base. It is depressing to review them. They do little to encourage confidence in the committee’s approach to eradicating sexual abuse in the profession."

A string of unfit penalties do not justify Peirovy's penalty, which was "inadequate to protect the public and vindicate the integrity of the profession," the decision said.

The court ruling comes as Ontario introduced legislation in December aimed at a zero-tolerance policy on patient sexual abuse by any regulated health professional. The bill would see doctors' licences revoked if they grope a patient and ensure a doctor found guilty of such offences by the College of Physicians and Surgeons immediately stops practising.

Peirovy told the discipline committee the examinations at the core of the case were done for a legitimate medical purpose. He denied cupping breasts and tweaking nipples. His lawyer did not respond to a request for comment.

One patient, a teenager, went to Peirovy in 2009 with a sore throat. During the examination, he placed a hand holding a stethoscope under her clothes and touched her breasts, the ruling said. He also placed his hand under her bra while she was lying on the examination table and placed his stethoscope directly on her nipples, the court ruling said.

Another patient, in her twenties, went to Peirovy with a sinus infection and lifted her clothes at his suggestion when he examined her chest. The doctor placed his stethoscope on several  parts of both her breasts, including directly on top of her nipples, and cupped her breasts with his hand while instructing the woman to breath in and out, the ruling said.

A different patient went to see the doctor in 2010 for a cold and he slid his hands under her clothes and touched her nipples with his fingers while listening to her chest, the ruling said. In that case, the woman tried to make it difficult for the doctor to get his hand under her clothes but he persisted and put his hand under her bra, touching her nipple, the ruling said.

A fourth patient, in her twenties, went to Peirovy in 2010 about her sinuses and ears. Peirovy placed his hand under her bra, cupped her breasts, and grasped her nipples, which she described as "tweaking," the ruling said.

With the fifth patient, also in her twenties, who went to see Peirovy because of heart palpitations, the doctor asked her to undo her bra and lift her clothes. He touched her left breast, cupping and pushing it, and then asked her out on a date after the examination, the ruling said.

Diana Mehta, The Canadian Press