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32 years later: Doctor suspended for sleeping with patient in 1990

In making a decision on penalty, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Nova Scotia looked at sanctions in similar cases from the '90s. But while penalties then may be different than what would apply today, the ethics regarding sex with patients were just as definitive.

A Nova Scotia doctor who had sex with a patient 32 years ago has been suspended for six months and ordered to pay $2,500 in college costs.

Dr. George Richardson must also have a practice monitor present for every patient encounter—a condition that’s been put in place permanently, according to the decision document from the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Nova Scotia.

“Dr. Richard’s conduct was very serious,” wrote the hearing committee. “An aggravating circumstance is the particularly vulnerable condition of (the patient). She sought counselling to deal with previous sexual abuse and incest.”

In making its decision on penalty, the committee reviewed similar cases from the 1990s. At the time, sanctions in cases that included sexual intercourse with patients ranged from three to nine months.

Read: Don't date and treat: One-year suspension for doctor who treated colleague he had a relationship with

The committee also took into account the more than three decades that have elapsed since the offence, and Dr. Richardson’s admission of guilt.

“He has spared the complainant the burden of testifying in an adversarial process by agreeing to the proposed settlement agreement,” wrote the committee. “Given the passage of more than three decades, the College may have had difficulty proving the allegations in the notice of hearing. Dr. Richardson gave up the possibility that those allegations could be dismissed because of prejudice to him from the long delay, or that the allegations would not be proven on the balance of probabilities after so much time.”

The patient filed a complaint against Dr. Richardson on October 15, 2020. She stated in her complaint that between May to August in 1987 or 1988, she saw Dr. Richardson for a number of counselling sessions. In “maybe three” appointments, the sessions ended with Dr. Richardson hugging and kissing her.

On one occasion in 1990, Dr. Richardson called the patient at home and set up a meeting at a local motel, where they had sexual intercourse. Shortly after Dr. Richardson ended the relationship because he was concerned his receptionist was starting to suspect something was going on. He also felt badly about the whole affair and said he had told his wife and another doctor in the clinic.

Dr. Richardson has admitted to these accusations and also told the College that he had lied in 1990 when he told the registrar of the Provincial Medical Board of Nova Scotia that he had arranged transfer of the patient in question to another physician. He had, in fact, not done so. He had also failed to disclose to the registrar that he had slept with the patient.

Read: Licence stripped from doctor who falsely logged mental instability in patient's medical file after she ended their affair

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