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Bill seeking spousal exemption on sexual relations rule for doctors passes third reading


November 6, 2013
By Mari-Len De

Nov. 6, 2013 — Chiropractors may soon be allowed to legally treat their spouses without fear of losing their licence to practice following the unanimous passage of a Private Member’s Bill from Leeds-Grenville MPP Steve Clark.

MPP Clark’s Bill 70, An Act to Amend the Regulated Health Professions
Act, 1991, passed third reading in the Ontario Legislative Assembly on
Wednesday, Oct. 23, and is now awaiting Royal Assent. The bill applies
to health-care professionals regulated under the Act, including
chiropractors and dentists.
 
“I am so happy for the many health
professionals anxious to see my bill passed that we got it across the
finish line,” said Clark. “I worked closely with the Ministry of Health
and Long-Term Care and stakeholders from all medical professions,
including the Ontario Dental Association, to refine the bill and make
sure it was something everyone could support.”
 
During third
reading debate, both Health and Long-Term Care Minister Deb Matthews and
the NDP’s critic, MPP France Gelinas, praised Clark for his
determination and work across party lines to get Bill 70 passed.
 
“The
member for Leeds–Grenville has done a good job of finding common
ground. I’m very pleased that all three parties are strongly in support
of this legislation. This afternoon is demonstrating that, even though
we all agree, we all have something we want to say about it,” said
Matthews.
 
“Then comes the member for Leeds–Grenville, who tried,
I’d say on three occasions, to bring that bill forward. It wasn’t easy.
It required a lot of people doing a lot of work. But today, those
people need to be congratulated for the hard work they’ve done,” said
Gelinas.
 
Under the Regulated Health Professions Act (RHPA),
there is zero-tolerance for sexual contact between health professional
and a patient. For chiropractors, this prohibition is covered under the
College of Chiropractors of Ontario (CCO) Standard of Practice S-014
(S-014).
 
However, health professionals have raised concerns
there was no spousal exception to the policy, meaning any treatment
automatically results in a professional being charged with sexual
misconduct and in jeopardy of losing their licence to practice.
 
Clark
stressed the spousal exception created through Bill 70 does not
undermine the zero-tolerance policy for sexual contact between a
health-care provider and any other patient.
 
“I would not put my
name on any bill that weakens that provision. Any violation of this most
fundamental tenant of the duty of care and the trust a patient places
in the hands of a dentist, doctor, physiotherapist or any other
health-care professional should be dealt with in the strongest possible
way,” he said.
 
Another key component of the bill gives each
profession’s regulatory body the option of allowing the spousal
exception for its members.
 
There are more than 50 regulated
health professions in Ontario and Clark said he has received positive
comments about his bill from dentists, dental hygienists, chiropractors
and other regulated health professionals across the province.

In
its regular e-mail communication, the Chiropractic Awareness Council of
Ontario (CAC) welcomed the development saying it has been working on
getting the CCO S-014 amended since 2007.

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“While we are 100 per
cent in favour of a standard which clearly outlines a zero tolerance for
sexual abuse of a patient, we are just as fervent in our believe that
adjusting one’s spouse is not in any way a form of sexual abuse,” wrote
Dr. Steven Silk, chair of the board of directors of the CAC.

Silk
said once Bill 70 receives Royal Assent, it will then be possible for
the CCO to amend S-014 to include spousal exemption on the prohibition
of sexual relationship with a patient.