"The college is to be congratulated for taking this unusual action. But it should never have come to this. As The Star has argued before, the province should amend the Regulated Health Professionals Act so that any doctor who is found by a disciplinary panel to have committed any type of sexual assault will automatically lose his or her licence."
Dr. Javad Peirovy
It's time to tighten the law around doctors who sexually assault patients.
In Feb. 2010 a woman went to a walk-in clinic to see a doctor about a possible ear infection and some chest congestion. While Dr. Javad Peirovy was examining her with a stethoscope he cupped her breasts and touched her nipples.
One would think Peirovy would have lost his licence because of this, especially since it was not an isolated incident. A disciplinary panel of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario found in July 2015 that he had sexually abused four patients, including that woman, in the span of one year. And in 2013, he pleaded guilty in criminal court to two counts of simple assault — after being initially charged with sexually assaulting six female patients in 2009 and 2010.
Yet, despite all this, the disciplinary panel decided in April not to revoke his licence, but simply to suspend it for six months. Starting this fall, believe it or not, Peirovy can begin practising on both male and female patients again. (The only proviso is that a female health care professional must be present when he is examining female patients.)
A doctor with a history like Peirovy's should not be allowed to continue his practice, as the college itself understands. That’s why this week it asked a panel of Divisional Court judges to overrule the decision of its own disciplinary panel. The college rightly argued that the only appropriate penalty in his case “given the utterly egregious and deliberate nature of the respondent’s sexual misconduct towards his female patients” is the revocation of his licence.
The college is to be congratulated for taking this unusual action. But it should never have come to this. As The Star has argued before, the province should amend the Regulated Health Professionals Act so that any doctor who is found by a disciplinary panel to have committed any type of sexual assault will automatically lose his or her licence.
Currently the act only mandates the stripping of a licence if the doctor engaged in one of five acts: sexual intercourse, oral-to-genital contact, genital-to-genital contact, genital-to-anal contact and masturbation. That leaves a big loophole for disciplinary panels with a possible interest in protecting their own.
As medical malpractice lawyer Paul Harte says, it’s a clear gap in the legislation. “Why would it not be fixed immediately? Is a 14-year-old girl who’s molested without penetration deserving of less protection?”
Lenient treatment of doctors by the college’s disciplinary panel has been going on for far too long. In 2014, Mississauga physician Sastri Maharajh admitted he assaulted as many as 13 female patients by placing his mouth or resting his cheek on their breasts. Regardless, the college’s disciplinary panel allowed him to continue practising after suspending his licence for only eight months, on the condition that he treat only male patients.
That ruling was made despite the proven difficulty of enforcing sex-based restrictions on a doctor’s practice. Consider another male doctor, Sharif Tadros, who admitted to sexually assaulting female patients. He was allowed to continue to practise if he treated only male patients, but was later found to be treating women.
Sadly, the list goes on. As the victim from February 2010 notes: “If this is allowed to continue, it could be your friend, your mom, your sister . . . We’ve got to stop this now.”
It's past time the province tightened the law to ensure that doctors who betray their patients' trust in such a fundamental way are never allowed to do so again.