MD charged with sexual assault in Canada gave up U.S. licence over alcohol abuse allegations

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.

Dr. Ravishankar Shenava avoided U.S. disciplinary action in 2006

Dr. Ravishankar Shenava, who faces multiple counts of sexual assault in connection with six former female patients in Windsor, Ont., lives in West Bloomfield, Mich., and commutes from his home in suburban Detroit to practise on the Canadian side of the border. (CBC)

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.  

Monitoring program

It recommended he enter into a voluntary monitoring program with the HPRP.

The terms of the monitoring program included Shenava promising to abstain from drugs and alcohol and that he attend AA meetings.

But by the fall of 2005, Shenava had a relapse.  

In November of that year, he was admitted to William Beaumont Hospital near Detroit for "acute alcohol intoxication."

This incident triggered another round of evaluations and recommendations he enter long-term residential treatment.

But Shenava did not undergo the recommended treatment.

The Michigan Department of Community Health's disciplinary subcommittee alleged that Shenava showed "a conduct, practice or condition that impairs or may impair the ability to safely and skilfully practise the health profession." The committee took "emergency action" to suspend his licence in April 2006 pending a disciplinary hearing.

No formal hearing

He voluntarily surrendered his licence and avoided a formal hearing.  

In 2010, Shenava's alcohol abuse would once again get him into trouble.

Dr. Ravishankar Shenava pleaded guilty to impaired driving and failing to report an accident and paid a $1,283 fine in connection with a 2010 incident in West Bloomfield, Mich. ( West Bloomfield, Mich., Police Department)

In February of that year, he was arrested for driving under the influence in his hometown of West Bloomfield, Mich.

A police report says he rear-ended a car at a traffic light twice, then drove off to a spa at a nearby strip mall.  

Police found him there in a state they described as "falling down drunk." He pleaded guilty to impaired driving and failing to report an accident, and paid a $1,283 fine.

It is not clear how much — if any — of this information is known to Ontario's College of Physicians and Surgeons.

The doctors' self-regulating body publishes a profile of every Ontario physician, including discipline history.

There is no information about Shenava's record in Michigan on the college's website.

No indication

The college declined the fifth estate's request for an interview.

In an email, it said: "Physicians [are] required to self-report, on an annual basis, any action taken against them of a criminal or professional disciplinary nature in any jurisdiction."

Dr. Ravishankar Shenava sees patients in an office in this building in Windsor, Ont. (CBC)

But there is no indication from the college about whether Shenava did self-report or what it did with the information.

the fifth estate reached out to Shenava and his lawyer for comment on what happened in Michigan but they declined.

The college also told the fifth estate that information is "shared between U.S. and Canadian regulators when action has been taken affecting a physician's licence."

The college did not say if it ever got that information from U.S. authorities about Shenava.

There seems to be nothing on the Ontario college's website to indicate Shenava had been in any legal or professional trouble in any jurisdiction until he was charged in Windsor in 2015.

The website lists current charges against Shenava in connection with six former female patients.  

Allegations denied

According to documents filed in Ontario Court of Justice in Windsor, the psychiatrist is facing 12 sexual assault charges in connection with the former patients.  

He is also charged with one count of using threats to try "to obtain an act of sexual intercourse."

Shenava's lawyer, David Humphrey, says the psychiatrist "denies the allegations, will plead not guilty to the charges and will vigorously defend the case in court."

The college permits Shenava to continue seeing female patients, but only in the presence of a female chaperone.  

He must also inform them of the charges he is facing and post a sign with his practice restrictions in his office.

Dr. Gail Robinson, director of the women’s mental health program at Toronto’s University Health Network, questions why Dr. Ravishanker Sheneva's licence hasn't been suspended until an investigation can be held into the allegations against him. (CBC)

This situation is unacceptable, says Dr. Gail Robinson, director of the women's mental health program at Toronto's University Health Network and an expert the field of professional conduct in medicine.

"It boggles the mind," she told the fifth estate's Bob McKeown.

"If this has not been tried yet, is this not enough to at least suspend his licence until an investigation can be held? I don't understand it."

Earlier allegation

However, the fifth estate has also learned that the six former patients were not the first to allege sexual assault by Shenava.

In December 2012, a young woman whose identity is protected by a publication ban went to police alleging Shenava assaulted her in his Windsor office.

She had begun seeing him a few months earlier.

"I had gotten a referral from a walk-in clinic because I had been feeling depressed from a previous sexual assault," the patient told the fifth estate.

At first, she says, Shenava prescribed medication that helped her feel better.  

But as the sessions went on, she says the drugs caused terrifying hallucinations.

The patient claims Shenava sexually assaulted her in his office.

Police laid a charge of sexual assault against Shenava in early 2013.

Charge withdrawn

During a preliminary hearing, Shenava's lawyer, Humphrey, questioned her version of events. He suggested she initiated any physical contact and that it would have been unwanted by the psychiatrist.  

In a recent letter to the fifth estate, Humphrey said that there were "glaring concerns" about the patient's credibility and reliability.  

He also pointed out her "long history of delusions predating any contact with Dr. Shenava" and "delusions at the time of the alleged offence." These issues were also the focus of the preliminary hearing.

The Crown withdrew the charge in 2014.

College went quiet, complainant says

According to the patient, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario took her complaint seriously enough to send an investigator to interview her in early 2013.

That investigator took her statement, but after that, nothing happened, she says.

"I was supposed to have an interview at the College of Physicians, they said after my trial, because they wanted to know the outcome, and they said 'either way if there's an outcome or not,' we were going to have one. And it never happened," she said.  

Since the fifth estate began its investigation, the patient has heard from the Ontario college.

She says she has been told the college is planning to look into her complaint at a hearing in the next few months, nearly three years after she made it.

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