Sunday, January 07, 2018

Breast exams for private pilot license • Doctor to face public discipline hearing for allegedly sexually abusing patient

Pending Hearing

Summary: Allegations of Dr. Thicke’s professional misconduct have been referred to the Discipline Committee of the College. It is alleged that Dr. Thicke engaged in the sexual abuse of Patient A, and/or disgraceful, dishonorable or unprofessional conduct, including by touching her breast in a sexual manner and/or by conducting an inappropriate and unnecessary breast examination.

Notice of Hearing:

Dr. Brian Thicke, 88, is accused of groping a female patient's breasts. He denies his conduct was inappropriate or sexual in nature.

Prominent Brampton physician Dr. Brian Thicke, patriarch of the famous Thicke family, will now face a public discipline hearing for allegedly sexually abusing a patient, after Ontario’s medical regulator at first dismissed the complaint against him in secret.

A spokesperson for the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO) has also confirmed that “in addition to the pending discipline hearing, Dr. Thicke is under investigation,” but did not provide further details.

As reported by the Star in November, a panel of the regulator’s inquiries, complaints and reports committee — made up of doctors and members of the public — dismissed a complaint made against Thicke by Lisa Fruitman, who alleged Thicke groped her breasts on two occasions, in 1993 and 1995, during a physical examination that was required to receive a private pilot’s license.

(The complaints committee operates behind closed doors and reviews documentary evidence, but does not hear from witnesses.)

After Fruitman appealed to the Health Professions Appeal and Review Board, a civilian body, the committee was ordered to review the complaint after the board found the decision to take no further action was “unreasonable.”

The review board criticized nearly every finding made by the committee in its initial decision not to send the matter to discipline, pointing out, among other things, that Transport Canada has indicated that a breast exam was never a requirement for the pilot physical.

After being ordered to review the complaint, the college’s complaints committee chose to send it to a public discipline hearing.

Fruitman told the Star in a statement she was grateful the case is at last being sent to a public hearing, noting she first complained to the college three years ago. She said she hopes the process will be expedited given that Thicke is 88.

The discipline proceedings, which have yet to be scheduled, will be heard in public in front of a five-member panel of the college’s discipline committee, also made up of doctors and members of the public. Discipline hearings hear directly from witnesses. If found guilty of sexual abuse, Thicke would most likely lose his license.

A notice of hearing, dated Dec. 13, 2017, is now posted on Thicke’s profile on the college’s online public register. It outlines that Thicke allegedly engaged in sexual abuse of a patient and/or disgraceful, dishonourable or unprofessional conduct by “touching her breasts in a sexual manner and/or by conducting an inappropriate and unnecessary breast examination” on two separate occasions in 1993 and 1995.

Thicke’s lawyer, Paul-Erik Veel, said Thicke had no comment. A designated civil aviation medical examiner for pilots, Thicke previously denied through his lawyer to the complaints committee that his conduct was sexual or inappropriate.

According to the Health Professions Appeal and Review Board’s decision ordering the complaints committee to review Fruitman’s complaint, Thicke’s lawyer told the committee that “it was possible that he conducted a physical examination of the applicant,” but had no recollection of Fruitman and no medical records related to her.

“He stated the examinations performed in such circumstances were comprehensive physical examinations, which could have included a breast examination, as was the standard practice at the time,” reads part of the board’s decision, summarizing Thicke’s position to the college complaints committee.

Once dubbed Brampton’s “most valuable physician” and feted at a gala in 2011 by former Brampton mayor Susan Fennell, Thicke is the father of the late actor Alan Thicke, and grandfather of singer Robin Thicke.

Robin Thicke spoke of his grandfather last week in an interview with Inside Seneca magazine before a show at a Niagara Falls, N.Y., casino, saying the elder Thicke is a pilot and had taken him flying over the falls.

Brian Thicke retains an active license to practice medicine, according to his CPSO profile. He also continues to have privileges at Brampton Civic Hospital, according to a hospital spokesperson who declined further comment.

Critics have described as “chilling” the way the complaints committee initially handled Fruitman’s complaint against Thicke, and it raised further concerns about how Ontario’s medical regulator deals with sexual abuse complaints behind closed doors.

If not for Fruitman’s decision to appeal, it would not have become public that Thicke has faced a similar accusation in 1994. The complainant in that case went to the police, and Thicke admitted to officers to doing breast exams for pilot licenses for the last 38 years, according to a police report.

The police took no further action in that case, finding there had been “no intent” to commit sexual assault.

In its decision to send the complaint back to the CPSO complaints committee, the review board noted that while Thicke may not have had medical records about Fruitman, the committee did have in front of them her entire Transport Canada medical file, which confirmed she saw Thicke on the dates in question.

Yet the committee made no mention of the medical file in its initial decision to take no further action. The board found there was also no evidence to support the committee’s finding that a full physical examination including a breast exam was the “standard of care at the time” regarding the pilot physical.

The information before the complaints committee was “unambiguous” that a breast exam was not required for a private pilot’s license, the health review board said.

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