TORONTO — Stripping a doctor of her medical licence for sexually abusing a mentally ill female patient was appropriate and in the public interest, Divisional Court ruled Tuesday.
In upholding the sexual-abuse finding and punishment meted out to Dr. Mary McIntyre, the court rejected her arguments that the disciplinary committee ignored evidence the doctor-patient relationship was over when the sexual conduct occurred, and the licence revocation was too harsh.
"The committee conducted a fair hearing and did not breach any principles of procedural fairness," Divisional Court said in its ruling.
"(The) decision was based on a large range of misconduct, not just involving Patient Y, but also five other patients and their families, over a period of many years."
McIntyre, now 57, who practised in Chatham, Ont., admitted in July last year to numerous acts of professional misconduct, including failure to respond to patient-care concerns, being rude to patients, and improper record keeping. The committee of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario also faulted her for having a close friendship with a vulnerable man that became sexual after their doctor-patient relationship ended.
McIntyre only contested the finding she had sexually abused the woman known as Patient Y, and the licence revocation.
During her appeal hearing last month, McIntyre's lawyer made much of the fact that the committee had refused to allow a letter Patient Y had written to be entered as evidence. The letter, apparently, was written in November or December 2010 — before she and the physician had a "romantic kiss" that became the crux of the sexual-abuse finding.
"I am informing you that you are no longer to be my physician," Patient Y wrote.
The Divisional Court panel agreed the committee had no reason to allow the letter as evidence given that neither the patient nor McIntyre testified, and no evidence existed to show what became of the missive.
As a result, the court said, the letter may have been "nothing more than the musings" of Patient Y, who had a long history of mental illness and had been McIntyre's patient for 20 years.
"Even if the letter had been sent, there would need to be evidence that it had been acted upon," the court said. "There is no basis to interfere with its conclusion that Dr. McIntyre sexually abused Patient Y."
The court agreed with the licence revocation based on "the guiding principle of protection of the public," and rejected McIntyre's arguments that the punishment was excessive for a single kiss. The court agreed with the college, which argued the case didn't turn on the kiss or even exactly when it occurred.
Evidence — some from a close relative of the doctor's — was that the doctor and Patient Y had shared a bed, with one of them wearing nothing but a towel, and that McIntyre had a long-term "intimate" relationship with a patient who had been hospitalized several times for mental-health issues.
"The committee's penalty decision is reasonable, defensible, and supported by cogent reasons," the court said.
The court also ordered McIntyre to pay $10,000 to cover the legal costs of the appeal. The committee had previously ordered her to reimburse the $16,060 the college had paid to her patients and another $13,380 for legal costs.
Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press