Ontario doctor stripped of licence two years after pleading guilty in sex assault
CPSO hearing told London doctor Robert Crozier he is a “disgraced physician”
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The case of a psychiatrist in London, Ont., who was stripped of his medical licence on Monday raises the question of why a licence can’t be yanked immediately after a doctor is found guilty in criminal court of sexually assaulting a patient.
Robert Crozier pleaded guilty in court in October 2014 to sexually assaulting Patient A and was sentenced to four months in jail and two years’ probation. He had voluntarily ceased to practise medicine in February of that year, about two months after his arrest.
On Monday, two years after his criminal conviction, a discipline hearing at the Toronto headquarters of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO) heard that Crozier hugged Patient A after an appointment in December 2013, before proceeding to fondle her breasts, including placing his hand under her shirt and touching her nipple, according to an agreed statement of fact.
He asked her if she liked what he was doing, to which she replied “No.” He then asked if she had experienced an orgasm before “advising that it relieved stress,” according to the statement.
“This is not timely justice,” medical malpractice lawyer Paul Harte told the Star. “I think most members of the public would find a delay of two years following a conviction to be unacceptable.
“It would be my view that where there is a criminal conviction for sexual abuse of a patient, that should lead to automatic revocation.”
He suggested that government pass a regulation to grant the college’s registrar the power to revoke the licence after a criminal conviction for sexual assault on a patient.
As it stands, most forms of sexual abuse, including penetration, oral sex and masturbation, lead to the mandatory revocation of a physician’s licence by the discipline committee. But yanking a licence for groping still remains entirely at the discretion of the panel.
The government has promised to introduce legislative amendments this fall to ensure that all forms of sexual abuse lead to mandatory revocation, something the CPSO supports.
A college spokesperson, Kathryn Clarke, said even if the amendment passes, a hearing would still be required to establish a finding of professional misconduct.
“We are unaware of any jurisdiction where a physician’s licence can be revoked without holding a hearing, given the regulator’s obligation of procedural fairness in administering its duties,” she said. “In Ontario, a criminal finding leads to an investigation, and where the finding can be established to be relevant to the practice of medicine, a hearing is held.”
The result in Crozier’s case before the college’s independent discipline committee also stands in stark contrast with that of Toronto Dr. Javad Peirovy.
On Monday, after Crozier was stripped of his licence.
Yet a differently constituted panel of the discipline committee chose to suspend Peirovy for six months in April, rather than revoke his licence, after he was found to have sexually abused four female patients by groping them.
In a rare public rebuke, the college expressed disappointment with the committee over that decision, and has appealed to the Divisional Court, arguing the public was at “significant risk” while Peirovy practised at a Toronto walk-in clinic. (He has always denied the allegations against him before the committee.)
“One discipline panel is not bound by another discipline panel, but you would have thought that they would all agree on the governing principles, and that being what they said in (the Crozier) case: that there is zero place for sexual abuse,” said Harte, the medical malpractice lawyer.
“It sends a mixed message to the profession, when they need to have a clear-cut message to the profession that sexual abuse is never tolerated.”
The college said it had nothing further to add on the Peirovy case.
Crozier pleaded guilty on Monday before the discipline committee to sexually abusing Patient A and Patient B, and of demonstrating “disgraceful, dishonourable or unprofessional conduct” in both cases, as well as in that of Patient C.
A visibly upset Crozier stood in front of the panel, and in a barely audible voice said he wanted to “sincerely apologize.” His lawyer, Joshua Koziebrocki, said his client feels remorseful and has accepted responsibility for his actions.
Aside from revoking his licence, the committee ordered he turn over a letter of credit for about $32,000 to cover therapy costs for the two patients he was found to have sexually abused, as well to pay the college $5,000 for the cost of the one-day hearing.
“While the committee recognizes that you are remorseful for your actions, nevertheless, you have shamed and disgraced not only yourself but the profession as a whole ,” discipline panel chair Dr. Eric Stanton told Crozier.
“Dr. Crozier, you will now leave this chamber a disgraced physician.”
The psychiatrist admitted that within hours after he was arrested for sexually assaulting Patient A in December 2013, he violated his release conditions by calling her 11 times.
“I have had days that I hoped and prayed that God would take me home to heaven,” Patient A said in a victim impact statement read by college lawyer Alice Cranker.
With regards to Patient B, Crozier admitted to hugging her and touching her breast twice.
“Dr. Crozier told Patient B that she had been through so much and that he wanted to give her another hug,” says the agreed statement of fact. “Dr. Crozier indicated that he was thinking that Patient B could take off her top. Patient B replied that she felt this was highly inappropriate.”
The woman’s husband submitted a victim impact statement on her behalf, saying she recently suffered a relapse from the condition for which she was receiving treatment from Crozier.
“A person who was in charge of her care completely violated her trust and sent her spinning back into the deep depression she was desperately trying to climb out of,” said the statement, read by Cranker.
Finally, Crozier admitted to inappropriate conduct regarding Patient C. She began seeing him as a patient in 1993, and a few years later offered comfort to Crozier following his family difficulties, according to the statement. He sat next to Patient C on the couch during sessions and held her hand, and accepted “comforting touches” on the shoulder on at least one occasion.
Patient C later told him she had developed feelings for him. The college’s lawyer said Crozier did not take steps to discharge Patient C from his practice until 2006.
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