British Columbia

Acupuncturist's list of misconduct includes claiming to be 'personal physician,' providing oxycodone

B.C. acupuncturist Shawn-Poppi Sabhaney was a member of the board of his professional college when investigators discovered he had misrepresented himself as a "personal physician," helped a patient access Oxycodone and defied professional boundaries by operating a wellness centre on a client's property.

Shawn-Poppi Sabhaney has agreed to resign from B.C. college board and be suspended from practice

Shawn-Poppi Sabhaney was elected to the board of the College of Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioners and Acupuncturists of B.C. in 2019. (College of Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioners and Acupuncturists of B.C.)

B.C. acupuncturist Shawn-Poppi Sabhaney was a member of the board of his professional college when investigators discovered he had misrepresented himself as a "personal physician," helped a patient access oxycodone and defied professional boundaries by operating a wellness centre on a client's property.

When that client died, Sabhaney called the lawyer for the client's estate to ask if she'd provided for the wellness centre in her will, and then removed products the client had paid for from the property — including an ultrasound machine —without the permission of the estate's executor, according to a public notice from the College of Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioners and Acupuncturists of B.C.

Sabhaney, who operates a clinic in Surrey, has admitted to a long list of other examples of misconduct, including providing illicit intramuscular injections, charging "excessive" fees, keeping incomplete records and accepting gifts from a patient including an engagement ring and financial help with an engagement party, the notice says.

He's acknowledged that his behaviour "constitutes professional misconduct and unethical conduct," according to the college.

As a result, he's agreed to resign from the college's board, be suspended from practice for six months, return the ill-gotten ultrasound to the deceased client's estate, reimburse an additional $1,000, and pay $4,491 in investigation fees to the college.

Sabhaney was elected to the college's board last year. On the website for his Surrey business, the Neural Clinic, he claims he specializes in treating post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health issues.

Though Sabhaney is trained in acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine, he described himself as a "doctor" and "personal physician" in emails, according to the college's notice.

He also performed procedures that acupuncturists are not legally permitted to do, including "facilitating the use of oxycodone" and injecting "various substances" deep into a client's muscles, the notice says.

Sabhaney is suspended from practising acupuncture for six months. (Kim Hong-Ji/Reuters)

Sabhaney lied to an inspector from the college as well, claiming that he'd been trained by a specific doctor to give IV injections when that was not true.

On the question of his wellness centre, the college says Sabhaney "engaged in unethical conduct and failed to maintain professional boundaries" by signing a retroactive 30-year contract with his patient to run the facility on her property.

Sabhaney has not responded to requests for comment.

The disciplinary actions against him also include a reprimand and requirements to take courses in ethics and medical record-keeping.

He cannot seek reelection to the college board for seven years, but the final two months of his suspension from practice will be stayed if he satisfies all the other terms of his discipline.

About the Author

Bethany Lindsay

Journalist

Bethany Lindsay is a B.C. journalist with a focus on the courts, health, science and social justice issues. Questions or news tips? Get in touch at bethany.lindsay@cbc.ca or on Twitter through @bethanylindsay.

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