Nova Scotia·New

Suspended N.S. doctor may get licence back

A Nova Scotia doctor who used a patient to get a narcotic drug for her personal use will be allowed to return to the practice of medicine if she fulfils several conditions imposed by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Nova Scotia.

Former patient blamed doctor in suicide note

Dr. Violet Hawes has been disciplined by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Nova Scotia. (CBC)

A Nova Scotia doctor who used a patient to get a narcotic drug for her personal use will be allowed to return to the practice of medicine if she fulfils several conditions imposed by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Nova Scotia.

Dr. Violet Hawes of Middle Musquodoboit had her licence suspended in November 2009 after the allegations surfaced.

The following month, one of her former patients committed suicide and left a note blaming her.

Doug Carpenter, 49, took his life in the parking lot of the Musquodoboit Valley Memorial Hospital in December 2009.

He left a note for his family saying "Dr. Hawes did this to me."

According to Carpenter's medical records, Hawes prescribed him Hydromorph Contin — a narcotic — for the first time in January 2008.

Carpenter's mother, Phyllis, said her son had described an arrangement with his doctor when she prescribed the drug.

"She would have a prescription ready for him when he went in there for his drug. He would fill it and give it to her," Carpenter told CBC News last December.

Doug Carpenter's note. (CBC)

Hawes admitted her wrongdoing to the college in August, including inappropriate prescribing of medications meant for a patient, and violating physician-patient boundaries "with respect to her relationship with a patient."

On Monday, the college released its decision regarding the punishment meted out to her.

She has been ordered to abstain from gambling, drinking alcohol and taking non-prescribed drugs.

Hawes has also been "permanently prohibited" from prescribing any narcotics and must tell her patients of the prohibition and post it in her office.

The college ordered her to undergo a treatment program for drug and alcohol abuse.

Hawes will be allowed to return to practice on a "graduated basis" and must have another doctor present to monitor her actions.

She must attend the next available physician-patient boundaries course from the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario.

Finally, Hawes will pay $10,000 toward the college's costs for the hearing into her case.

"Ten thousand dollars for a man's life?" Phyllis Carpenter asked. "It's not adequate ... If she was a good doctor she would have known that she was in trouble and sought help."

Carpenter said she feels Hawes is a public health risk.

"How many other patients got the wrong treatment because she was on drugs?" she said. "The public ... should be very leery."

Gus Grant, registrar and CEO of the college, said Hawes is a good doctor. 

"Dr. Hawes is a competent physician, but with a terrible illness. When her illness is appropriately treated, as it has been over the last couple of years, and she's tightly monitored, she's able to deliver competent care," Grant said Monday.

In 1995, Hawes was found guilty of professional misconduct for having sexual relations with two patients between 1991 and 1993. A private hearing was held and, at the time, the college decided there was no need to suspend her licence.