Nova Scotia

Hearing wraps in case of Sydney gynecologist accused of misconduct

The lawyer for a Sydney, N.S., specialist in obstetrics and gynecology told a disciplinary panel Thursday there wasn't enough evidence to prove the case against Dr. Manivasan Moodley, who is accused of professional misconduct stemming from alleged incidents with two separate women.

WARNING: This story contains details some readers may find disturbing

Dr. Manivasan Moodley began working in the obstetrics and gynecology department at the Cape Breton Regional Hospital in March 2017. (Holly Conners/CBC)

The lawyer for a Sydney, N.S., specialist in obstetrics and gynecology told a disciplinary panel Thursday there wasn't enough evidence to prove the case against Dr. Manivasan Moodley.

In January, the Nova Scotia College of Physicians and Surgeons called the hearing, alleging Moodley committed professional misconduct or incompetence after two women came forward to say he'd behaved improperly during separate appointments.

Both women said Moodley had asked them questions of a sexual and personal nature, which Moodley has denied. One woman identified as A.B. said Moodley used his fingers to put lubricant on her vagina, which surprised and shocked her. The other woman, identified as C.D., said Moodley unnecessarily made her believe she had cancer.

Thursday was the final day of the hearing, which began in February but was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some allegations modified

On Thursday, Moodley's lawyer, Robin Cook, made his closing arguments to the five-person panel overseeing the hearing. Cook clarified the college has modified some of its allegations against Moodley since January.

The college is only pursuing professional misconduct allegations, not incompetence. It is also not alleging the act of putting lubricant on A.B.'s vagina was done in a sexual way, but that Moodley failed to get patient consent by not fully explaining what he was doing. It is also no longer pursuing the allegation that Moodley made C.D. think she had cancer.

Cook reminded the panel Moodley is not obligated to disprove the case or provide an alternate explanation. He said the college did not provide sufficiently "clear, convincing, and cogent evidence" to prove its case.

Misunderstanding caused 'ripple effect,' says lawyer

Cook told the panel both complainants testified their initial impression of Moodley was fine, but during their appointments each had an experience they perceived as highly negative, which caused a "ripple effect."

"A perceived negative experience can colour all other experiences," Cook said.

He said the negative experience for A.B. was the application of the lubricant. For C.D. it was receiving negative test results, which she thought might be a fatal cancer.

A key part of the college's case against Moodley has been the testimony from A.B. about a Pap smear when Moodley put lubricant on her vagina.

A.B. testified the doctor told her he was about to apply lubricant to a term she did not understand, which she thought was a piece of equipment. She did not respond and was shocked when he touched her. A.B. did not remember what term the doctor used.

Dr. Naeem Khan, Dr. Erin Awalt, Raymond Larkin, Gwen Haliburton and Dr. Gisele Marier are the panel members for the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Nova Scotia's hearing looking into misconduct allegations against Dr. Manivasan Moodley. (Carolyn Ray/CBC)

Moodley also testified he had no recollection of the Pap smear, but agreed it was possible he used the word "introitus," a medical term for the opening of the vagina. He said he would usually use the terms "entrance" or "opening" of the vagina.

Cook told the panel the evidence doesn't establish Moodley used the term introitus, which the college's lawyer suggested was a term most people wouldn't understand and therefore couldn't give consent to.

"It is equally possible that Dr. Moodley did say vaginal opening," Cook argued, saying that neither Moodley nor A.B. remember what words were used. "She could have misunderstood, she could have misheard what he said."

Dozens of people gathered in front of Cape Breton Regional Hospital on Jan. 23, 2020, to rally in support of Moodley. (Gary Mansfield/CBC)

Cook said "pure speculation" on a word does not meet the standard of proof. He also said both parties agree Moodley told A.B. what he was about to do before he did it, which another gynecologist testified meets the acceptable standard of consent.

"Dr. Moodley has no ability to read a patient's mind and determine what they do or do not understand," Cook said.

Both parties will make written submissions by Sept. 30, and the panel will meet to deliberate in the first week of October.

Panel chair Raymond Larkin said the panel aims to have a decision by the end of October.

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Shaina Luck

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Shaina Luck covers everything from court to city council. Her favourite stories are about ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. Email: shaina.luck@cbc.ca

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