Ontario psychiatrist Stan Dobrowolski facing disciplinary hearing after alleged sexual touching of a female patient

November 1, 2012

LONDON, Ont. — A London psychiatrist who has been the subject of multiple disciplinary actions, as well as a court order for sexual improprieties with his patients, is once again facing a disciplinary hearing over sexual misconduct by the regulatory body that oversees the profession.

Earlier this month the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario suspended Dr. Stanley Dobrowolski’s practice pending an investigation of the alleged sexual abuse of a female patient.

The disciplinary record posted on the college website alleges that Dr. Dobrowolski engaged in inappropriate and/or sexual touching of the “breasts, legs and genitals” of unnamed “Patient A.” The allegations also include, “masturbating Patient A,” and the shaving of Patient A’s legs and/or, “pubic area,” as well as the taking of, “inappropriate and/or sexual photographs and/or videos of Patient A.”

It is also alleged that the psychiatrist kissed the patient, offered to undress in front of her, and made remarks that were of an “inappropriate, and/or sexual nature.”

Dr. Dobrowolski’s licence suspension began on Oct. 12, while a Notice of Hearing into the matter, issued by the college’s disciplinary committee, lists Patient A as having been a patient of Dr. Dobrowolski’s from February 2006 to May 2011. The notice also states that Dr. Dobrowolski failed to maintain the professional standard of practice in the caring for and “prescribing for Patient A.”

The voicemail greeting at Dr. Dobrowolski’s practice does not indicate he has been suspended.

Dr. Dobrowolski has been subject to a court order since 2006 restricting him from giving physical exams to patients, and makes clear that he is not to engage in any personal interactions with female patients outside of therapy. He must also alert any female patient to these restrictions, and clearly display a notice of these restrictions in his home-based office. The college alleges that the doctor is in violation of that court order.

Reached at his home, Dr. Dobrowolski declined comment. “I have nothing to say at the moment because there’s lawyers involved and so forth,” he said.

There is no evidence that Dr. Dobrowolski’s behaviour was criminal in nature. Kathryn Clarke, a spokeswoman for the college, said there is “no legal obligation” for the college to report information from its investigation to police. “But we do explore that option with the person who has brought the matter to our attention.”

The college has been the subject of scrutiny in the past over a perceived lack of action around doctors repeatedly cited for professional misconduct or the sexual abuse of patients and yet allowed to continue practising medicine. A 1991 task force recommended the college adopt a “zero tolerance” position on the sexual abuse of patients by doctors. But in 2001, the Toronto Star reported that 90% of sexual-abuse complaints to the college were either dropped or privately resolved, while a 2007 investigation by the Hamilton Spectator found that, of 126 college-disciplinary cases involving sexual misconduct, only half resulted in doctors having their licences revoked.

Dr. Dobrowolski has been the subject of disciplinary action on four other occasions since 1994 for “disgraceful, dishonourable or unprofessional conduct.”

In one case, his licence was suspended for a year, with the ability to have nine months of that suspension forgiven if he complied with certain conditions. In another matter, he was suspended for six months, with three months shaved off if he improved his record-keeping and underwent therapy.

The decision in the 1994 case refers to past incidents of professional misconduct involving six complainants from incidents dating back to 1985, with the panel suggesting there appeared to be “a pattern of serious misconduct.”

Marilou McPhedran, who chaired the “zero tolerance” task force, as well as a follow-up review nine years later, said she finds it “shocking” the number of cases in the province that “are clearly sexual assault as defined by the criminal code” yet are not referred to police.

“In the cases that I’ve reviewed, for the 20-plus years I’ve been involved in this, it’s very seldom if ever that I’ve seen the college refer a case to the police, even where the facts were powerfully demonstrating sexual assault under the criminal code,” Ms. McPhedran said.

Under the Regulated Health Professions Act — the legislation that governs health-care professionals — the college is compelled to keep most information confidential, but is permitted to disclose where a “law enforcement proceeding is likely to result.”

According to a source with close knowledge of college disciplinary procedures, even if the Dobrowolski case is fast-tracked, it could take up to a year before a disciplinary panel issues a ruling.

“If you look at the medical boards — which is what they’re called in the States — if this had happened in the States, the cops would be arresting him,” alleged the source.

Ms. McPhedran said that, even without a criminal incident or police involvement, the college could have acted sooner given Dr. Dobrowolski’s disciplinary track record. “In a case like this, what is most perplexing to me is that based on the information — and it’s not detailed information — is how both the college and the court failed to follow the very clear legislation … given the facts that were accepted … The revocation of this doctor’s licence was appropriate years ago.”

Ms. Clarke said the latest allegations are not similar in nature to the previous cases involving Dr. Dobrowolski.

“How could they say there’s not a pattern here?” asked Ms. McPhedran.

Source: Bilbo Poynter, "Ontario doctor facing disciplinary hearing after alleged sexual touching of a female patient," National Post, October 31, 2012.


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