Evidence of sex, drugs and confidential medical information on iPhone the basis of case against Sask. doctor

Investigators laid professional misconduct charges against Prince Albert, Sask. doctor Josias Furstenberg after getting access to his iPhone.

College of Physicians and Surgeons get search warrant to seize cellphone of Dr. Josias Furstenberg

Dr. Josias Furstenberg (Facebook)

The case against a Prince Albert, Sask. doctor accused of having sex with five patients, overprescribing powerful opioids and sharing confidential medical information is based largely on incriminating evidence pulled from the doctor's iPhone, CBC News has learned.

Josias Furstenberg is facing 11 misconduct charges from the Saskatchewan College of Physicians and Surgeons. These are professional charges, not criminal, and Furstenberg has not yet had a hearing to respond to the allegations.

The charges stem from an investigation that began with a complaint in February, said Bryan Salte, legal counsel with the Saskatchewan College of Physicians and Surgeons. 

"It was a contact from the mother of a patient who expressed concern about Dr. Furstenberg's prescribing to her daughter and expressed concern that Dr. Furstenberg had a sexual relationship with her daughter," Salte said.

It was a contact from the mother of a patient who expressed concern about Dr. Furstenberg's prescribing to her daughter.- Bryan Salte, Saskatchewan College of Physicians and Surgeons

Salte said two things became clear once the College started looking at the case: That Furstenberg's mobile device likely contained evidence to support or refute the allegations, and that investigators would need to get into the mobile device.

"The information from the mother was that her daughter was not doing well, was now on the street, and the likelihood of having the daughter's involvement in any investigation was not very high," Salte said.

"So the result was that if we were going to be able to prove an allegation we were most likely going to have to do it without the benefit of the patient who had allegedly been involved with Dr. Furstenberg."

Dr. Josias Furstenberg practices in Prince Albert, Sask (Facebook)

Seized phone

The College successfully applied to provincial court for a search warrant to seize the phone. CBC obtained the material provided to support the application.

Salte said that the College had never before made such an application.

The package included an affidavit from the woman who originally complained. She alleged that her daughter had become addicted to crystal meth and is living on the street since her sexual relationship with Furstenberg ended.

Multiple allegations emerge

Salte said that Furstenberg complied with the search warrant and unlocked the phone. This is when the investigation went from a single complaint to multiple allegations.

"What it did allow us to do was to obtain information through various apps and other information on the phone that allowed us to contact individuals, former patients and others of Dr. Furstenberg, and ask them for information about what their experiences had been and that's what led to the remaining charges," he said.

The allegations include that Furstenberg had sexual intercourse with five patients; that he overprescribed opioids to a patient; that he accessed personal information without consent; and that he shared photographs of patients.

Salte said it's now up to Furstenberg to either admit or deny the allegations.

Furstenberg's lawyer did not return calls for comment. 

Furstenberg moved to Prince Albert from South Africa in 2005. Salte said that he may have returned there, and that the College has been in contact with the Health Professions Council of South Africa about the outstanding allegations.

Salte also said that Furstenberg did not renew his medical license in Saskatchewan.

About the Author

Dan Zakreski is a reporter for CBC Saskatoon.