Dr. Nigel Painter initially tried to cover up the relationship. The relationship first came to light in the midst of another case of doctor-patient sex in Prince Albert, Sask., that of Dr. Johannes Kriel, said Bryan Salte, legal counsel for the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Saskatchewan.
"We were then contacted by individuals who expressed concern that Dr. Painter had engaged in similar misconduct," Salte said. "And then we began our investigation."
Doctor drafted patient's letter of denial
The patient was in the midst of a breakup and Painter had been counselling her, the college found.
The woman initially denied being sexually involved with Painter, Salte recounted.
"She and Dr. Painter together prepared a response in which she wrote to the college indicating that there had been no sexual relationship," Salte continued, explaining Painter drafted the letter, which the patient rewrote and sent to the college.
The college then went directly to Painter, "and Dr. Painter admitted the relationship," Salte said. He said eventually the patient did provide the college with additional information, including how the letter came to be written.
It's a strict rule for doctors that when it comes to sexual relationships, patients are off limits. Cases are rare, but they do occur, said Salte, who recalls three in the past five years in Saskatchewan.
Salte said according to literature on the subject, a variety of factors can lead a doctor to cross the line.
"They think of [the patient they become sexually involved with] as being different than the normal, for whatever the reason happens to be," he explained. The doctor may also be under a lot of stress, may have trouble at home, or lack social outlets because work dominates his or her life.
Up to doctor to enforce boundaries
"Very often the patient is vulnerable, and sometimes even initiates the contact," Salte said. But he said it's up to the doctor to recognize and enforce the professional boundary.
"Patients will approach physicians and provide them with a lot of information that they would never provide to somebody else," he said. "They will provide that with the expectation it's going to be used to assist them."
When the professional relationship turns sexual and possibly romantic "with some patients at least, the effects can be devastating, can last years and decades," Salte said.
Painter won't be able to get his licence back for at least one year, and only after he completes counselling and undergoes an assessment, satisfying the college that he is unlikely to reoffend.
Painter was also club physician to the Prince Albert Raiders hockey team.