Reporting Sexual Misconduct
We recognize that coming forward with a complaint about sexual misconduct can be very difficult. You may not be ready to disclose your identity or make a decision about whether to file a complaint. If you have concerns about a sexually inappropriate encounter with a physician, the College encourages you to speak to our Public Support Advisor.
Call our confidential line at 902-406-8401, leave your number, and the Public Support Advisor will return your call as soon as possible. If you prefer, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Public Support Advisor is a trained social worker and will listen to your concerns and answer any questions you have. They will explain the College’s complaint process so that you know what to expect. You can then decide if you would like to file a complaint.
The College investigates all complaints of alleged sexual misconduct against physicians.
What is sexual misconduct?
All physicians who are licensed to practise in Nova Scotia are registered with the College and must adhere to the standards and guidelines laid out by the College.
Professional Standard and Guidelines Regarding Sexual Misconduct by Physicians
The public and the profession have demanded, and are entitled to, clarity regarding the College’s approach to sexual misconduct by physicians. The College’s professional standard regarding sexual misconduct by physicians seeks to answer that call. It defines the standards for physician conduct and sets out the disciplinary sanctions that will be sought by the College upon findings of sexual misconduct. Read the professional standard regarding sexual misconduct by physicians.
How is sexual misconduct defined by the College’s standards?
Sexual misconduct includes any sexualized conduct engaged in by a physician with a current patient.
Sexualized conduct refers to conduct including threatened, attempted or actual conduct, behaviour, or words by a physician with a sexual connotation, character, or quality. It does not include medically relevant questions, discussions, examinations, or procedures performed in a clinically appropriate manner.
Sexual misconduct is any sexualized conduct that a physician knows, or should reasonably know, would be objectionable, unwelcome, cause offence or humiliation to the person, or adversely affect the person’s health and well-being. Sexual misconduct can involve any person, including:
- a current or former patient;
- family members or support persons of patients or former patients;
- other health professionals, employees, or learners.
Sexual misconduct includes, but is not limited to, the following:
- sexualized comments or questions that lack medical relevance, including comments or questions about a patient’s body, clothing or sexual history;
- threatened or attempted sexual contact;
- sexual touching of any kind;
- intimate examinations or procedures that are not clinically indicated or are performed in a sexualized manner;
- encouragement to engage in sexualized behaviour (including masturbation);
- sexual abuse;
- discriminatory comments on the basis of sex and gender, including about a person’s appearance, manner of dress, gender identity, sexual orientation or sexual preferences.
Sexual abuse is a form of sexual misconduct and includes the following acts between a physician and a current patient or vulnerable former patient of that physician:
- sexual intercourse including genital to genital, genital to anal, oral to genital, or oral to anal contact;
- masturbation of the patient by the physician;
- a physician encouraging a patient to masturbate in the presence or for the benefit of that physician; or
- masturbation by the physician in the presence of the patient.
Public Support Advisor
The Public Support Advisor:
- is a representative of the College and is neutral with respect to any complaint;
- is not a counsellor or advocate for a person filing a complaint, and does not act on their behalf. Because of this, discussions with the Public Support Advisor are not protected by patient confidentiality;
- takes notes of discussions with the complainant, which are kept on the complaint file and available to the Investigation Committee. As well, notes may be disclosed to the physician in the normal course of the investigation; and,
- may be called to testify to speak to any complainant-related discussions should the matter be referred to a Hearing Committee.
Concerns about privacy may be a worry for you. You can contact us anonymously to make general inquiries about a sexual misconduct concern. The Public Support Advisor is here to listen to you without the disclosure of your identity or the identity of the physician.
If you choose to proceed, you will need to file a formal written complaint with the College. The complaint process is not anonymous. This means that your name would be disclosed to the physician who is being investigated. The College would need to access your medical records as a part of the investigation and would require the physician to provide a specific response to the complaint as part of the process.
While complaints are kept confidential, they are not anonymous. As such the following people will be aware of your complaint:
- the physician named in the sexual misconduct complaint;
- the physician’s lawyer, should they seek legal advice and assistance;
- the Registrar of the College;
- professional conduct staff who handle the complaint;
- Investigation Committee members who investigate and hear the complaint; and
- our Public Support Advisor.
The College has a statutory obligation to maintain the confidentiality of all information gathered during the investigation and resolution of complaints.
You are required to keep information provided to you by the College confidential. This includes the physician’s response to your complaint. This does not stop you from seeking appropriate support from friends, family, or a counsellor. Confidentiality is expected to be maintained when discussing the complaint with others.
The Medical Act directs the College to publish all Hearing Committee decisions unless a publication ban is in place. Decisions do not disclose the identity of the person who filed the complaint or the names of patients involved in the complaint.
Why report a concern about sexual misconduct
Coming forward about a sexually inappropriate encounter with a physician is difficult. There may be many reasons why you might be worried about doing so. There are, however, important reasons to consider reporting what happened to the College.
- Public protection: Incidents of sexual abuse or misconduct are often not isolated. Coming forward could mean preventing an incident from occurring again.
- Awareness: We rely on patients to make us aware when something is not right. We can only learn about sexual abuse or misconduct from patients who make complaints.
After you file a sexual misconduct complaint, our Public Support Advisor contacts you to explain the next steps and answer your questions. They will provide support throughout the complaint process.
Questions About Filing Complaints
If you have questions about filing a complaint, please call: 902-421-2201. You will be asked to leave a message and will receive a call back in 24-48 hours.
Questions About Sexual Misconduct Complaints
To report a complaint regarding sexual misconduct call: 902-406-8401. Leave a message on this confidential line to discuss concerns regarding sexual misconduct by physicians.