December 1, 2005
by Oral Health
The College of Dental Hygienists of Ontario (CDHO) takes great exception to the comments made by Dr. Lang in his editorial, “More Insanity” and wishes to ensure that your readers are informed of the facts.
The clear implication of Dr. Lang’s editorial is that the CDHO both could have and should have, ignored its governing legislation, namely the Regulated Health Professions Act 1991, the Health Professions Procedural Code and the regulations and bylaws made thereunder in making the decision to revoke a registrant’s certificate of registration. As a long-standing member of the Council of the Royal College of Dental Surgeons of Ontario (RCDSO), Dr. Lang should know that colleges have a legal obligation to enforce the legislation pursuant to subsection 3.-(1) 1 of the Procedural Code. That’s exactly what happened in the case cited by Dr. Lang.
The facts in that case were clear, definitive and were not contested. The CDHO treated the registrant with courtesy and respect. In fact, she agreed to both the finding of sexual abuse and to the penalty ordered. The CDHO had no option but to revoke the registrant’s certificate of registration as the legislation requires and as confirmed by a recent decision of the Court of Appeal for Ontario in a similar case. If Dr. Lang has issues with the legislation, as he has every right to have, he should direct his commentary to the Minister responsible for implementing that legislation and the Government of Ontario, not at a regulatory college that, in good faith, simply administers that legislation in the public interest as its statutory mandate requires.
Furthermore, it’s highly inappropriate for Dr. Lang as a Council member of the RCDSO to be critical of the actions of another college.
Dr. Lang’s Reply:
Let me begin by re-examining the facts of this very sad case. In its very first, and to date, only discipline hearing, the College of Dental Hygienists of Ontario (CDHO) recently revoked the license of a hygienist for five years. Her heinous crime was that, years ago, when she was working under contract for the Canadian Armed Forces at a dental clinic in Ontario, she accepted a date with one of the officers — a Captain. He also happened to be one of her patients.
They subsequently fell in love, got married and had a little girl. Unfortunately, after five years of marriage, the couple decided to divorce. The husband was not happy with the terms of the divorce settlement nor the custody provisions for their daughter. So he filed a complaint with the CDHO alleging professional misconduct and “sexual abuse” by his hygienist wife because their courtship became intimate years ago during the period of time she was cleaning his teeth at the Armed Forces dental clinic.
Even though they had been married for five years and had a child, and even though a 6′ 2″ 200-lb. Armed Forces Captain claiming a 5′ 5″ 115-lb. hygienist sexually abused him is absurd, and even though the motive for the complaint was pure and simple vengeance, and even though the hygienist was a First Nations woman who couldn’t afford to hire a lawyer to represent her at her hearing, the Dental Hygiene College revoked her license for five years.
Now, in her letter, the President of the CDHO claims that her college treated this unfortunate hygienist with “courtesy and respect”, yet it proceeded with her disciplinary hearing and license revocation even though the hygienist could not afford to hire her own lawyer. So it comes as no surprise that, having no lawyer to represent her or advise her of her rights at her discipline hearing, “she agreed to both the findings of sexual abuse and the penalty ordered.”
The CDHO President also claims that “the CDHO had no option but to revoke the registrant’s certificate of registration.” I am sure that if she called, the legal department at the Ministry of Health, she would have learned that the Regulated Health Professions Act 1991, the Health Professions Procedural Code and the regulations and by-laws made thereunder, give her college and all self-regulated health colleges under the RHPA, the statutory authority to determine which cases should be referred to a discipline hearing and which cases should not.
Thus, the CDHO had the legal statutory authority to say that the purpose of the legislation was to protect patients from predatory conduct by a health practitioner, where a power imbalance existed between the practitioner and the vulnerable patient. Since there was obviously no predatory conduct or power imbalance in this case, the CDHO could have easily and legally said therefore there was no professional misconduct and it would be a travesty of justice to refer this hygienist to a discipline hearing.
Similarly, the discipline committee could have easily determined that this case arose out of a matrimonial dispute, and had nothing to do with the intention of the legislation, and therefore there was no professional misconduct. Unfortunately, for this poor hygienist who has now lost her career, this didn’t happen.
In conclusion, I would never want to interfere in how the CDHO treats its members. However, it would be nice to think that the next time a dental hygienist is referred to a discipline hearing in Ontario, a little more common sense and compassion will be shown.
Dr. Randy Lang, DDS, D.Ortho, FACD, FICD Mississauga, ON