TORONTO — Stripping a doctor of her medical licence for sexually abusing a female patient was unfair, an Ontario court heard Thursday.
In making its decision, the disciplinary committee ignored evidence that the relationship between Dr. Mary McIntyre and the woman was over when the sexual conduct occurred, court heard.
Defence lawyer Eli Lederman made much of the fact that the committee of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario had refused to allow a letter written by the patient to be entered as evidence.
The letter, apparently, had been written before McIntyre and the patient had a "romantic kiss" in November or December 2010, the crux of the sexual abuse finding.
"I am informing you that you are no longer to be my physician," Lederman quoted the letter as saying.
However, neither the patient nor McIntyre testified and there was nothing to show what became of the letter.
McIntyre, now 57, who practised in Chatham, Ont., admitted in July last year to numerous acts of professional misconduct related, among other things, to improper record keeping, not responding to patient-care concerns, and being rude to them.
The committee also faulted McIntyre for having a close friendship with a vulnerable man that became sexual after their doctor-patient relationship ended.
McIntyre is now only fighting the finding she sexually abused the woman, known as Patient Y, and her licence revocation.
Lederman took issue with the prosecutor's closing submission that there had been no evidence the doctor-patient relationship with Patient Y was over when the kiss occurred given the letter.
"They either needed to abandon their claim that this amounted to sexual abuse with the kissing, or, at the very least, they should have said nothing at all," Lederman said.
In addition, the refusal by the panel to allow the letter as evidence at the last minute led to a miscarriage of justice, he said.
The justices, who reserved their decision, clearly had difficulty swallowing the defence contention.
"Let's assume we don't think the prosecutor did anything improper, would you pack your bags and leave now?" Justice Anne Malloy asked at one point.
In her submissions, college lawyer Amy Block said the case didn't turn on a single kiss or when it occurred. McIntyre had a long-term "intimate" relationship with a patient who had been hospitalized involuntarily several times for mental-health issues, Block said.
Other evidence — in part from a close relative of the doctor's — was that Patient Y was immersed in McIntyre's family, the pair socialized and travelled together, and had a joint bank account.
"They shared a bed together, with evidence of one of them wearing nothing but a towel," Block said. "Sitting naked on a bed with a patient is enough."
The letter by itself would not have changed the disciplinary finding, Block said. For one thing, it was not determinative that the doctor-patient relationship had ended. The letter also referenced McIntyre's threat to commit Patient Y to hospital, court heard.
"There's some kind of serious manipulation of a patient happening," Block said.
While the panel found a licence suspension might otherwise have been appropriate, the relationship with Patient Y changed the situation.
"The kiss was only one aspect of this abusive relationship," the committee found. "Dr. McIntyre took advantage of the power imbalance in her physician-patient relationship to become involved with Patient Y socially, financially and sexually."
Lederman's co-counsel, Robert Trenker, said even if the sexual-abuse allegation stood, revocation of McIntyre's licence was far too harsh.