The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Nova Scotia has agreed to allow a family doctor with a history of drug abuse to return to practising medicine under strict restrictions and conditions.
Dr. Stephen Harley, who has been practising since 1998, reached a settlement agreement with the college in August and has been deemed fit to return to practising as long as he stays away from alcohol, drugs and submits to random urine monitoring, hair sample monitoring and breathalyzer testing.
"We acknowledge that Dr. Harley's drug addiction is an illness and that this illness is very difficult to overcome and manage. It is therefore appropriate and just to give Dr. Harley an opportunity to return to practise in light of the successful management of his addiction and his demonstrated competence," the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Nova Scotia wrote in a settlement dated Aug. 13.
"We are also aware that this is an illness which can result in a relapse. It is important for Dr. Harley to appreciate the protection of the public will ultimately take precedence over helping him in his struggle with addiction."
According to the The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Nova Scotia, Harley began abusing drugs in 2004 by writing fraudulent narcotics prescriptions for his family and friends, which he then used.
The Halifax-area doctor was first reprimanded by the college in 2008 and was allowed to return to his practice under a series of restrictions and conditions. He was not allowed to issue narcotic prescriptions.
But in 2009, Harley failed to provide a urine sample requested by the college and was suspended again. He went through treatment and was deemed fit to return to his practice, again.
A positive urine test in 2011 landed Harley back in treatment and he's been there ever since.
"The hearing committee agrees with the general approach of the college which is to make every effort to permit a member to return to practice so long as the public is protected," the college wrote.
"In this case, it is difficult to conceive of conditions and restrictions which could be more strict than those accepted by Dr. Harley in the settlement agreement. We have therefore concluded that it is in the public interest to accept the settlement agreement."