Doctor suspended for sex abuse after writing notes so patient could skip exam

A Toronto doctor has been suspended for sexually abusing a patient for whom he had written two medical notes so she could avoid exams.

The suspension imposed by a College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario discipline panel on Dr. Suganthan Kayilasanathan’s licence will remain in place until his penalty hearing, which has yet to be scheduled. Under Ontario law, a doctor found to have had sex with a patient must lose their licence at the penalty stage.

A panel found Dr. Suganthan Kayilasanathan guilty of sexual abuse and unprofessional conduct.
A panel found Dr. Suganthan Kayilasanathan guilty of sexual abuse and unprofessional conduct.  (Andrew Francis Wallace / Toronto Star file photo)

The discipline case against Kayilasanathan turned on whether the woman, identified as Ms. A due to a publication ban, could in fact be considered a patient as defined by Ontario law.

A five-member discipline panel heard that Kayilasanathan and Ms. A were acquaintances, and that after a long night of partying in 2010, the doctor suggested to the woman that he could write her a doctor’s note to avoid taking an exam for which she wasn’t ready. He wrote her a second note to avoid another exam a week later. Ms. A attended the walk-in clinic where Kayilasanathan worked on both occasions to retrieve the notes.

In the week between the first and second doctor’s notes, Kayilasanathan and the woman had sex at a hotel. The discipline panel found in a decision released last Friday that Kayilasanathan was guilty of sexual abuse and unprofessional conduct.

In addition to the notes, he had also drafted a patient chart noting some of Ms. A’s symptoms, and billed OHIP for both of her visits, the panel noted. In her testimony before the panel, Ms. A said none of the symptoms noted by the doctor in her chart were actually discussed at the clinic.

She was there strictly to get a note to get out of her exam, she testified. But she did have him examine her briefly with a stethoscope at her first visit. “Because I said something like ‘Shouldn’t we make this look like a real doctor’s visit?’” she testified in February.

“I essentially used him to get a doctor’s note.”

Kayilasanathan’s lawyer, Andrew Parley, did not return the Star’s request for comment Monday.

The discipline case proved to be an uphill battle for the college, which in recent years has ramped up efforts to crack down on sexual abuse in the medical profession. The case came close to falling apart when Ms. A refused to testify at the discipline hearing, even after having been served by the college with a summons, which creates a legal obligation for a witness to appear on the stand.

Ms. A had actually not complained to the college about Kayilasanathan; she revealed to another doctor that she and Kayilasanathan had had sex. Under Ontario law, health care professionals must report to their respective college when they learn of sexual activity between patients and their health care providers. The doctor at first did not disclose Ms. A’s name to the college as Ms. A refused to give her consent, but the regulator ordered the doctor to turn it over.

When Ms. A did not show up to testify as scheduled last November, the college indicated it was prepared to ask a judge for a bench warrant, which would have meant the police bringing Ms. A to the college to testify — a first for the regulator.

Ms. A then hired a lawyer who tried to convince the discipline panel to quash the summons, but the panel refused, finding she was the key witness and her testimony was crucial. Ms. A ended up testifying in February, without the college having to seek a bench warrant.

“Sexual abuse of a patient is the most fundamental breach of trust by a physician,” said college prosecutor Carolyn Silver in a statement. “We are pleased with the finding and the fact that the public will immediately be protected from this physician.”

The college had previously tried to discipline Kayilasanathan and another doctor, Amitabh Chauhan, on charges of unprofessional conduct for allegedly drugging and sexually assaulting a woman. The pair had previously been acquitted by a judge in 2014 in criminal court, where the burden of proof is higher than at the college level.

The discipline proceedings never got off the ground, as the woman, who had already testified at the preliminary hearing and trial for the two doctors, could not bring herself to testify a third time.

“The process of testifying has been gruelling and has had a significant detrimental impact on Ms. X. She is simply not able to subject herself to the psychological, emotional and physical harm of another hearing,” according to a letter from her lawyer.

In that case, the college chose not to force the woman to testify, and the discipline charges were withdrawn.

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