Posted notices about disciplined doctors leave public confused
Ontario doctors disciplined for the sexual abuse of patients are often required to adhere to conditions when they return to their practice following a suspension.
Among such measures, doctors can be ordered to post a notice about the conditions imposed upon their practice, though a CBC News Toronto investigation has found that some of the signs found in doctors’ offices around the city are not necessarily clearly displayed or clear to the public.
One Toronto gynecologist, Joseph Siu-Kan Lee, was disciplined by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, after complaints from a female patient.
The patient alleged that Lee "touched her breasts in a non-medical manner," commented on them and subsequently grabbed and licked one of them.
She alleged that the doctor also suggested that her husband should perform oral sex on her and proceeded to put his face near her genitals and make "licking sounds."
Lee denied the allegations against him. But in June 2010, the college discipline committee found that he had committed professional misconduct and had engaged in the sexual abuse of a patient.
Lee appealed the decision of the discipline committee to a Divisional Court. That appeal was subsequently dismissed.
The discipline committee ordered that Lee be reprimanded, fined, compelled to complete an ethics course and serve a suspension.
The discipline committee also put in place conditions "for an indefinite period of time," which included Lee posting a sign in his office indicating that he was "required to have a monitor present for all in-person professional encounters with female patients."
The sign was to be "prominently displayed" in Lee’s office and to be written "in English and other appropriate languages."
Lee’s online doctor profile with the college indicates that he is fluent in English, Chinese, Cantonese and Mandarin.
When CBC News Toronto sent a hidden camera to visit Lee’s office, the sign was apparently not displayed.
Lee left a telephone message indicating he did not want to be interviewed.
"My office is so busy, I can give you any kind of excuses, I'm really just not interested in kind of saying ‘I just want to move on’ and you know, so sorry, you know I really cannot help you," Lee said in the message.
Sign posted on crowded bulletin board
Another doctor, in North York, Philip Choptiany, was also required to post a sign in his office, following discipline from the college last year.
According to a statement of facts that Choptiany pleaded no contest to, he once told a female patient she had "nice Brazilian tan lines" during a breast examination.
To another patient, Choptiany made "inappropriate comments … regarding her sexual relationship with her husband." The patient further alleged that she felt Choptiany’s pelvic area against her arm while he conducted a breast examination.
Choptiany also made "inappropriate comments" to a third patient "with respect to her sexual relationship with her husband."
The events occurred between 1991 and 2006, according to college documents.
In 2011, Choptiany pleaded no contest that he "engaged in conduct or an act or omission relevant to the practise of medicine that … would reasonably be regarded by members as disgraceful, dishonourable or unprofessional."
The college withdrew three other allegations, including that he had engaged in the sexual abuse of a patient.
Choptiany was fined $3,650, reprimanded and had his certificate of registration suspended for two months.
He was also barred from conducting any rectal, pelvic or breast examinations of female patients without a monitor present.
Choptiany was also ordered to post a sign in his waiting room and each of his examination rooms stating: "Under no circumstances will Dr. Choptiany perform a breast, pelvic, or rectal examination except in the presence of a female regulated health professional."
When CBC News Toronto visited his office, the sign was posted on the right-hand side of a bulletin board that had many other notices and pieces of papers displayed alongside it.
The doctor’s lawyer, Jennifer McKendry, told CBC News in an email that Choptiany had posted the signs "pursuant to and in compliance with the terms of the committee’s order."
Not enough detail?
CBC News Toronto showed women on the streets of downtown Toronto examples of the signs doctors facing conditions are required to post.
The women who spoke to CBC News found the signs confusing and were unclear that it was a condition imposed by the college.
Carolyn Silver, senior counsel for the college, said the public has a right to know about conditions imposed on doctors who have been disciplined.
And that includes being able to read signs outlining those conditions that doctors have been ordered to display.
"We go and check on those physicians," said Silver, noting that the college has prosecuted physicians who have violated the terms, limitations and conditions they are subject to.
Asked to define what visibility means in the context of a sign that doctor can be ordered to post, Silver said it must be "visible to the patients, that they’d be able to see it."
Silver could not immediately provide the number of monitors the college uses, but she said it is part of its role to ensure that doctors are complying with the terms, conditions and limitations imposed upon them.
Do No Harm: Doctors and Sexual Abuse continues this week online, on radio and tonight on CBC News Toronto television.