Disgraced dentist-turned-foot doctor loses licence after use of fake medical implants
Ottawa chiropodist designed his own stents instead of using Health Canada-approved ones, CBC's Go Public found
A disgraced dentist-turned-foot doctor has been kicked out of the medical field for a second time after a Go Public investigation revealed he was using knock-off medical implants on unsuspecting patients.
Pierre Dupont stood before the disciplinary committee of the College of Chiropodists of Ontario on Tuesday, reading aloud from a statement in which he agreed to never practice chiropody in the province again.
"I would like to express my sincere apology for acting in an unprofessional manner," he told the committee, as some of his former patients looked on.
"My behaviour was inexcusable. Many of you are angry with me and you have the right be. You trusted me and … I let you down."
The Ottawa-based chiropodist became the focus of a Go Public/Radio-Canada investigation in 2016 after selling his patients Health Canada-approved implants for flat feet, then using his own experimental ones during surgery instead — without telling them.
On Tuesday afternoon, the disciplinary committee ordered the college to revoke Dupont's licence, as per a settlement deal. Dupont also must pay the college $30,000 in costs.
He has also agreed to never again apply for a new licence in Ontario. Under the agreement, he would be able to apply to practise in another province but would be obliged to disclose his discipline history.
Dupont inserted his experimental implants into 25 unknowing patients over a two-year period, the committee heard.
Some patients came to the Toronto hearing from Ottawa, Montreal and as far away as Nova Scotia. Others listened by live video feed.
More than a year after getting the fake implants, many patients — including small children — have told CBC News they are still in pain and can't walk as they once did.
"I'm very happy with [the penalty], just because he cannot go out and hurt anymore, especially kids," former patient Christopher Gremli said after the hearing.
Carrying around one of the fake implants on a string around his neck, he says he now needs both feet reconstructed after receiving the knock-off stents in each.
Erika Brathwaite, the first patient of Dupont's to contact Go Public, has a foot so badly damaged that if she wants "a chance to return to normal or close to normal," she says doctors have told her she requires major surgery.
That will require shaving part of her heel bone, putting cadaver tendons in her leg and a six-month recovery period, she says.
"There are still questions I have about the college but I have to say, today, they really went above and beyond by asking for something that usually isn't even in their power to do," Brathwaite says. "That offers a bit of redemption in my eyes."
No warning about troubled past
Dupont has been kicked out of a medical field before. He used to be a dentist in Quebec but was stripped of his licence and banned for life in 2005 following the death of one of his patients following a dental surgery.
He retrained as a foot specialist and moved to Ontario.
The College of Chiropodists of Ontario knew about his troubled past when it allowed him back into a medical field but did not issue a warning to the public.
Gremli says he's worried about the fact that the deal will allow Dupont to join a medical field in another province.
"That is a big bother," he says. "Going back, that's what he did in Quebec. He got banned there for one thing and he came here and started something else."
More than a dozen of Dupont's former foot patients filed complaints with the college after learning through Go Public's stories that they had received the experimental implants, which were made in a machine shop.
The college has also been criticized for taking nearly three times longer than usual to investigate those complaints; it used five extensions before deciding to send Dupont to the disciplinary committee.
Before Go Public's inquiries, neither the College of Chiropodists of Ontario nor Health Canada knew about the unapproved implants. After CBC's investigation, the college ordered Dupont to stop making and using the experimental implants, but allowed him to continue practising.
Dupont told the committee he didn't seek Health Canada's approval because he didn't think he needed it, saying he thought his implants were similar to the approved kind, called HyProCure.
He acknowledged he used that brand name in the contracts given to patients because he didn't think to replace the forms in order to remove the brand.
"I don't know how accurate it is when he says he doesn't know," Brathwaite says. "He's an intelligent man … I think the punishment was just."
College stays silent
The College of Chiropodists of Ontario registrar, Felecia Smith, declined to comment on Tuesday's decision; she didn't say whether all affected patients had been contacted.
Earlier this year, she said that the college "takes its duty to protect the public interest seriously."
Dupont did not comment beyond the statement he read at the hearing.
"I can advise that Dr. Dupont's motivation at all times was the well-being of his patients and everything that has been done was in an effort to assist their medical situation," Nigel Trevethan, a partner at Vancouver law firm Harper Grey LLP, wrote in an email to CBC News in September.
Former patient George Morrison he was glad to hear Dupont "at least had some remorse" at the hearing. The avid outdoorsman says if he even steps on a pebble, both ankles — which have the fake implants lodged inside — can swell up so badly he can't walk.
"They've taken away his licence. Hopefully someone else won't have to suffer like we have," Morrison says.
$15M class action
The controversial Ottawa foot specialist and his business, Ottawa Foot Practice, also could face a $15-million class action lawsuit.
The lawsuit, which has yet to be certified by a court, is seeking damages on behalf of the former patients. Dupont has not filed a statement of defence. The college was initially named in the class action, but earlier this year, the plaintiff and college agreed to a dismissal of the claims against it.
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