News Release

Discipline Committee Decisions

Dr. Jeffrey Steven Gale, Kingston; Dr. William Maclaren Muirhead; Dr. Richard Conolly Austin

Mar 26, 2014

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (“the College”) released the results of its most recent disciplinary hearings. The College is the licensing and disciplinary body for physicians in Ontario. Hearings are held to review allegations of professional misconduct and incompetence, and are open to the public. The following are brief summaries of recent discipline hearing results. The Discipline Committee’s full decisions and reasons for decisions are posted on the College’s website as they become available. Full decisions are located by entering the doctor’s name in the Doctor Search section of the College’s website at www.cpso.on.ca.

Dr. Jeffrey Steven Gale, Kingston. On December 13, 2013, the Discipline Committee found that Dr. Gale committed an act of professional misconduct, in that he sexually abused a patient, and he has engaged in disgraceful, dishonourable or unprofessional conduct. Dr. Gale denied the allegations.

Dr. Gale is an ophthalmologist. He participated in the hiring of a young female patient, Ms. X, to work as his family's live-in nanny. The medical issues for which Ms. X was under the care of Dr. Gale were significant and ongoing.

After hiring Ms. X, Dr. Gale developed a personal and flirtatious relationship with her that was inappropriate for him to have had with a patient, which included taking hot tubs together. He also allowed for utterances of a sexual nature with this patient and engaged in a pattern of sexualized interaction which was inappropriate.

During the doctor-patient relationship, Dr. Gale and Ms. X had an intimate sexual relationship which involved oral sex and sexual intercourse.

On March 4, 2014, the Discipline Committee ordered a public reprimand and directed the Registrar to revoke Dr. Gale's certificate of registration, effective immediately. Dr. Gale was ordered to reimburse the College for funding provided to patients under the program required under section 85.7 of the Code, by posting an irrevocable letter of credit or other security acceptable to the College in the amount of $16,060. Dr. Gale was further ordered to pay costs to the College in the amount of $44,600.

Dr. William Maclaren Muirhead, (no practice address).  On March 5, 2014, the Discipline Committee found that Dr. Muirhead committed acts of professional misconduct, in that he failed to maintain the standard of practice of the profession, and he has engaged in disgraceful, dishonourable or unprofessional conduct. Dr. Muirhead admitted to the allegations.

Dr. Muirhead was a general practitioner, whose practice was limited to psychotherapy. He is no longer a member of the College, having allowed his certificate of registration to expire on August 15, 2013.

Dr. Muirhead engaged in numerous boundary violations including but not limited to, having financial transactions with patients; repeatedly hugging certain patients in therapy sessions; exchanging gifts with two patients; and having contact with patients outside of therapy.

Email messages that Dr. Muirhead exchanged with five patients obtained in the College's investigation appear to describe romantic and/or sexual relationships between Dr. Muirhead and these patients. The patients deny actual sexual contact.

The Discipline Committee ordered a public reprimand and an 18-month suspension of Dr. Muirhead’s certificate of registration, commencing immediately, despite the fact that Dr. Muirhead is no longer a member of the College, having allowed his certificate of registration to expire on August 15, 2013. The Discipline Committee has also directed the Registrar to impose a number of practice restrictions that will come into effect in the event that Dr. Muirhead renews his certificate of registration.

Dr. Muirhead was further ordered to pay costs to the College in the amount of $4,460.

Dr. Richard Conolly Austin, (no practice address).  On March 18, 2014, the Discipline Committee found that Dr. Austin committed an act of professional misconduct, in that he failed to maintain the standard of practice of the profession in his care and treatment of four patients in 2005 and 2006. Dr. Austin admitted the allegations.

Dr. Austin practised obstetrics and gynaecology. In April 2007, Dr. Austin agreed to terms, conditions and limitations on his certificate of registration that restricted his obstetrical practice to office pre-natal care only, and required that his major gynaecological surgery and elective caesarean sections only be performed in the presence of another obstetrician/gynaecologist. These terms were to remain in effect until May 26, 2007, after which he would cease such surgery completely and would independently perform only minor gynaecological surgery. In 2008, Dr. Austin resigned his membership with the College.

An independent expert retained by the College opined that Dr. Austin failed to maintain the standard of practice, in relation to:

  • Patient A, in 2005, in performing a laparoscopic procedure due to inappropriate patient selection. He displayed a lack of judgment in choosing to perform a laparoscopy for lysis of adhesions in a patient with numerous laparotomies and known adhesions. He also failed to take into account, discuss and/or document the specific risk factors for complications that this patient had, including a failure to make full disclosure and/or document full disclosure following the patient's complication from surgery.
  • Patient B, in 2005, by not fully assessing the risk of malignancy of a simple ovarian cyst in a postmenopausal woman. He also did not clearly consider and/or document the risk of operative intervention as compared with conservative management.
  • Patient C, in 2006, in that he failed to adequately document his assessment of Patient C and failed to adequately document a description of the surgery he performed.
  • Patient D, in 2005, in that he did not comply with the College's policy on Disclosure of Harm when he did not advise Patient D about a bowel perforation promptly after gynecological surgery, tell her how the complication was managed and advise her of any possible future consequences that might arise as a result of the complication.

The Committee ordered a public reprimand and directed the Registrar to revoke Dr. Austin's certificate of registration, effective immediately.  Dr. Austin was further ordered to pay the College costs in the amount of $4,460.