Toronto doctor loses licence after she admits to sexual relationship with cancer patient

A Toronto doctor has had her licence revoked after admitting to having a sexual relationship with a cancer patient.

Theepa Sundaralingam, 37, also ordered to pay $16K for man's therapy

Theepa Sundaralingam, 37, a former oncologist at the Rouge Valley Health System, had her licence revoked on Wednesday by the College for Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario. (Robert Krbavac/CBC)

A Toronto doctor has had her licence revoked after admitting to having a sexual relationship with a cancer patient.

Theepa Sundaralingam, 37, a former oncologist with the Rouge Valley Health System, appeared at a disciplinary hearing at the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario on Wednesday on allegations of professional misconduct.

Staring straight ahead with a blank expression, she listened as the details of the relationship were read aloud. 

What began as flirting evolved into sexual touching and intercourse — sometimes at the hospital, other times at the patient's family home, the disciplinary panel heard.

​All the while, Sundaralingam continued to treat the man, who cannot be identified due to a publication ban. 

The panel heard that seven months into the relationship, Sundaralingam told the man she'd fallen in love with a colleague and broke off the affair. Shortly afterward, she refused to see him or treat him. 

Sundaralingam, left, prosecutor Amy Block and Sundaralingam's lawyer Jenny Stephenson are seen in this courtroom sketch with five members of the college's disciplinary panel. (Pam Davies/CBC)

Her behaviour was deemed "sexual abuse and disgraceful, dishonourable and unprofessional conduct," in an agreed-upon statement of facts. 

Sundaralingam was, according to her patient, "the person who both managed my health and provided me with emotional support during cancer treatment.

"She was the same person who abandoned me at my most vulnerable point," he said in a victim impact statement read aloud by a lawyer.

"I was physically emaciated and emotionally exposed and the loss of a critical relationship defeated me," he continued. "I feel abused and it's very difficult as a male to come out and say that about a female."

After a short deliberation, Sundaralingam was told she was losing her licence and ordered to put up a security of $16,000 for any therapy her former patient might need. She was also ordered to pay $6,000 — the cost of Wednesday's proceedings.

"Your actions are abhorrent and reprehensible. Even if revocation was not mandatory, the committee would have made such an order," one of the panel members said.

Asked as she was leaving the hearing if she had anything to say about the decision, Sundaralingam's lawyer, Jenny Stephenson, replied: "No comment."

In a statement, the Scarborough Health Network of which Rouge Valley is a part, said it "is committed to ensuring the health and safety of all our patients. We will move forward in accordance with the decision of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario."

With files from Farrah Merali