‘Ottawa’ Ottawa Doctor Reprimanded, Suspended for Kissing and Hugging Patient
An Ottawa family doctor has been reprimanded and had his licence to practise medicine suspended for three months after admitting he inappropriately kissed and hugged a patient on two occasions.
Dr. Atef Malak Shehata Ghali was originally accused of sexually abusing the patient, whose identity is under a publication ban.
But the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario withdrew that allegation after Ghali acknowledged he had engaged in conduct that would reasonably be regarded by members of the medical profession as disgraceful, dishonourable or unprofessional.
In an agreed statement of facts summarized in a recent decision by the college’s discipline committee, Ghali said he was practising at the Centrepointe Family Health Centre when he treated the woman, then in her early 50s, for a variety of health issues between December 2012 and May 2014.
Part of his treatment included counselling the patient, who was dealing with mental health issues and substance addiction. Ghali twice concluded appointments by hugging the patient and kissing her on the cheek, the discipline committee’s decision says.
The patient was upset by the kisses and hugs, which she considered inappropriate, and reported them in May 2014 to staff at the family health centre, who then filed a mandatory report with the college.
While Ghali, who practised medicine in his native Egypt for 22 years before emigrating to Canada in 2009, intended his actions to be supportive, “he now recognizes that his conduct was not appropriate conduct for a physician towards his patient, that it breached appropriate physician-patient boundaries and was not welcomed in any way by (the patient),” the discipline committee said.
The committee credited Ghali for taking responsibility for his actions, saving the college the time and expense of a contested hearing and sparing his vulnerable patient the trauma of testifying as a witness. It also noted that his record, both in Egypt and Canada, was otherwise unblemished.
On the other hand, it said, Ghali’s boundary transgression “occurred during counselling sessions with a very vulnerable patient.”
The committee agreed that suspending Ghali’s licence for three months and issuing a public reprimand would maintain public confidence in the profession’s ability to self-regulate in the public interest.
Ghali also has to complete a course in Understanding Boundaries and pay the college $5,000 to cover the cost of the one-day hearing into his case in May.
The committee said it hoped Ghali’s case would serve as an example to the medical profession.
“While one can imagine circumstances in which it would be appropriate to comfort a patient through some form of touch, those circumstances will be rare and physicians should never take for granted that any form of non-medically indicated personal touch is welcome by the patient,” it said.