News / Toronto

Former Ontario doctor reprimanded after committee finds he sexually abused patient

TORONTO — The agency charged with overseeing Ontario's physicians issued a scathing reprimand to a former family doctor who it says lured a patient into his office after hours "under the pretense of a cancer scare" to sexually assault her nine years ago.

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario delivered the reprimand to Dr. Romulo Fanio Anastasio Jr., who wasn't at Thursday's proceedings.

"Your sexual abuse of a patient you treated since she was an infant is deplorable," said Dr. Peeter Poldre, chair of the disciplinary committee.

The college's disciplinary committee immediately revoked the Hamilton, Ont., doctor's registration when it released its decision in November, though his records show he had already resigned his membership in July.

Based on an agreed statement of facts between the former doctor and his patient, the committee found that Anastasio pressed his clothed groin into his patient's naked genitals, and then used his bare hands to insert the patient's hand into her vagina while checking the woman's cervix for signs of redness.

According to the disciplinary committee's reasons for decision, the victim — who is unnamed because of the nature of the allegations — had been Anastasio's patient since she was an infant, but was in her late 20s at the time of the incident in 2007.

It's not clear when the complaint was made to the college, and spokeswoman Kathryn Clarke declined to comment on the timeline in an email.

Before the incident, which is described as sexual abuse by the college, Anastasio conducted an internal exam. He told the patient that he noticed redness around her cervix and was concerned she may have HPV, which he advised her could lead to cervical cancer.

Anastasio gave the patient his pager number, and requested that she give him her cellphone number "so that she could be kept up-to-date" on the situation, the decision said.

Later, Anastasio called the patient on her cellphone to come to the clinic for follow-up visits, including one after 5 p.m. when the office was closed.

When she arrived, he brought her into an examination room and told her he was pleased she was staying on top of the issue and not to be concerned, according to the decision. He said he just wanted to ensure it was not something that would lead to cancer.

"Your predatory manipulation of a patient's trust is truly deserving of the revocation you have received," Poldre said Thursday.

The patient said Anastasio used a speculum to examine her cervix, and after removing it, pressed his groin against her naked genitals, according to the decision.

Then, she said, he took off his gloves, took her hand and pushed it into her vagina, the decision said. She said he did this without warning, but later explained he wanted her to feel her cervix and know where it is.

The disciplinary committee found that pushing her hand into her vagina served no legitimate medical purpose.

"Anastasio maintained no clinical record of this patient encounter," the decision said.

The committee also heard that Anastasio continued to call the patient repeatedly after the incident, asking that she return for after-hours appointments.

"On one occasion, Dr. Anastasio called (the patient) while she was at home and she became angry and threw the phone on the kitchen table," the decision reads. That led the patient's mother to ask about what happened.

The patient's mother told her doctor about what happened to her daughter, and that doctor reported it to the college, according to the decision.

In addition to his registration being revoked, Anastasio was fined $21,000 — $5,000 was paid directly to the college, and more $16,000 went to reimburse the college for therapy it provided to the patient.

Anastasio's lawyer did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The committee also noted that Anastasio had previously been reprimanded by the college after he was found to have kissed a patient during a medical appointment.

He was also found to have made inappropriate comments to another patient and brushed his hand against her bottom.

For those offences, he was suspended for two months and was compelled to notify all of his female patients about the finding, providing them with a copy of the disciplinary decision and reasons. But an inspector from the college found that he was only notifying patients with a letter about the incident in which he edited some of the details in what it called a "self-serving manner", and did not provide them with copies of the decision and reasons.

A representative for the college declined to say whether it had reported the allegations against Anastasio to police, instead sending the agency's policy on reporting physicians to police.

The policy states that college staff will advise individuals that they're able to report allegations to police.

The committee is part of a regulatory body and its decisions don't require the same level of scrutiny as a criminal court.

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