In a series of blogs (here), I wrote about the dumb laws that used to exist which prevented Ontario dentists from legally treating their spouses – or face an automatic 5 year license suspension. Thankfully, last year, laws were changed and the Royal College opted dentists out of those laws. Other regulate health professionals are still bound by those laws.
Ontario dentists celebrated. And you’d figure that was the last we’d hear about that topic… Well, apparently, the issue has just come to public light in B.C., where the regulator and the province seem to be pointing fingers at each other when it comes to this very issue (which really shouldn’t be an issue at all).
So can dentists legally treat their spouses in B.C.?
In British Columbia, dentistry falls within the umbrella of the Health Professions Act, R.S.B.C. 1996. The College of Dental Surgeons of B.C. is a health profession college continued under that Act and charged with (among other things) establishing a “patient relations program to prevent professional misconduct of a sexual nature.” Here, the Act defines “professional misconduct” to include “sexual misconduct”.
So…OK… The provincial legislation (and provincial government) leaves it up to the College to create patient relations programs concerning sexual misconduct… So how does the College interpret this? Apparently, according to this Vancouver Sun article, the College took the stance that any sexual relations between dentists and patients was inappropriate (i.e. spouses too!). And there were no plans to create an exemption for treating spouses – although no dentists have been disciplined by the College for doing so. I’m not making this stuff up. That’s what the Vancouver Sun article says.
So the College in B.C. wouldn’t do what the College in Ontario fought so hard for years to do… hmmmm…
But what does the B.C. government say about this? Well, again, according to the Vancouver Sun article, they seem to be saying that the College’s interpretation is JUST PLAIN WRONG and that if the College came out with bylaws allowing dentists treated their spouse, it WOULD NOT be in violation of the Act. Now, here’s the problem: the government and the Act seem clear, but the government can only make suggestions since it’s ultimately up to the College (which regulates dentists) to apply those laws. Because the Act says “A college has the following objects: to establish a patient relations program to seek to prevent professional misconduct of a sexual nature”. So the government doesn’t want to step on the College’s toes by telling them what program they ought to have.
Interestingly enough, not all regulated health professions governed by the Act came to the same conclusion as the College of Dental Surgeons. Again, according to the Vancouver Sun article, the chiropractor college and the college of dietitians makes exceptions to their members treating spouses in certain circumstances. So why did the College take such a narrow view?
C’mon B.C… look at what happened in Ontario! Let patients make the determination of who should be their dentist. That’s their right / freedom to choose.
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