BROADCAST DATE : Jan 22, 2016

Doctors Without Boundaries

When doctors are accused of crossing ethical or legal boundaries with their female patients, why does it sometimes take so long for authorities to act - if indeed they act at all? And what does it take for a doctor to lose the right to practice medicine in Canada? Bob McKeown investigates doctors who faced discipline by provincial colleges of Physicians and Surgeons. Did those bodies adequately protect patients?

  • Windsor, ON psychiatrist Ravishankar Shenava was charged with multiple counts of sexual assault involving six former female patients in Windsor, Ont.
  • Shenava surrendered his medical licence in the U.S. after allegations of chronic alcohol abuse
  • Shenava commutes from his home in suburban Detroit, Michigan to practise on the Canadian side of the border
  • B.C. doctor Patrick Nesbitt was arrested in April 2012 for a threat to "cause death or bodily harm" after leaving bullet shells on ex-partner's driveway
  • Nesbitt was allowed to continue to practise after the provincial regulator stated his criminal charges were "unrelated to the practice of medicine"

DOCTORS WITHOUT BOUNDARIES
January 21, 2016

A psychiatrist charged with multiple counts of sexual assault involving six former female patients in Windsor, Ont., surrendered his medical licence in the U.S. after allegations of chronic alcohol abuse, the fifth estate has found.

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, the medical profession's self-regulating body in the province, never notified the public that Dr. Ravishankar T. Shenava cannot practise in the U.S. or why.

The fifth estate investigation is part of a wider CBC News investigation into how regulators across the country watch over the medical profession.

Shenava, 65, is a dual citizen of Canada and the U.S. and lives in West Bloomfield, Mich., commuting from his home in suburban Detroit to practise in Windsor.

He received his medical degree in India and his Canadian licence to practise medicine in 1988. He was licensed in Michigan in 1995.

In 2006, Michigan's Department of Community Health launched an official complaint against him, citing allegations of alcohol abuse.

The complaint document obtained by the fifth estate is a terse timeline of the psychiatrist's struggle to stay sober, going back to 1998. 

Shenava did not admit the truth of the allegations in the complaint, but he didn't contest them either.

According to the document, Michigan's Health Professional Recovery Program (HPRP) evaluated him and diagnosed him with alcohol dependency in December 2002. 

Also in this episode, a West Vancouver doctor who was arrested in April 2012 for a threat to "cause death or bodily harm" was allowed to continue to practise after the provincial regulator stated his criminal charges were "unrelated to the practice of medicine.”

An arrest warrant was issued for Dr. Patrick Nesbitt, 58, last week after the general practitioner failed to show up for a criminal trial in Abbotsford related to an incident where he left bullet shells from his .22-calibre rifle on his ex-partner's driveway.

On Friday — hours after the CBC first reported this story — police say Dr. Nesbitt turned himself in, appeared before a judge and received bail. A new court date for a criminal trial has been  set for Feb. 22 for the doctor, who has a long history of complaints before the College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia.

Abbotsford Police Det. Kevin Murray told the fifth estate that he was so concerned about patient safety he called the college nearly four years ago to warn it about the doctor.

"I thought it was important to notify the college, for the safety of others," Murray said. "This person could be potentially putting others in harm's way."

Nesbitt an 'elevated risk' for 'threatening behavior'
In a May 2014 ruling, B.C. Provincial Court Judge Gregory Brown also concluded that Nesbitt was "at some elevated risk to engage in threatening behavior."

A psychiatric report filed in that case also raises questions about Nesbitt's medical practice.

"The recent criminal charges highlight the fact that [Nesbitt's] personality-based problems remain potentially problematic and should remain an active concern," forensic psychiatrist Dr. Todd Tomita wrote in a July 2012 report. He stated that without restrictions imposed by the college, Nesbitt "remains at an elevated risk in medical practice."

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