Preventing and Dealing with Sexual Abuse

Photo of a woman in a hospital gown sitting on the edge of her bed with her back to the camera

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO) has a longstanding interest in and commitment to preventing and dealing with sexual abuse of patients by physicians.

At its May 2015 meeting, the CPSO’s Council approved a series of steps to increase protection of patients from sexual abuse and to ensure their voices are heard within the College’s investigations and discipline processes. A summary of the decisions made at that meeting are included in this backgrounder. In 2014,  the Minister of Health and Long-Term Care announced the establishment of a Task Force to review the legislative provisions in the Regulated Health Professions Act, 1991 relating to sexual abuse.

UPDATE: Following our initiative to ensure that we are doing all that we can to support and protect patients from physician sexual abuse, a number of changes have been made to our own processes and we are seeking new powers in our governing legislation. All our progress and recommendations have been summarized in this letter to the Minister of Health and Long Term Care.

We’ve developed a document that details the College’s continuing dedication to supporting and protecting patients from sexual abuse by physicians, including the positive changes that have already occurred since the release of the 1991 Task Force Report commissioned by the College. The contents of the report are outlined below and can be viewed online in its entirety.

Also included on this page are links to relevant CPSO policies, articles published in our quarterly magazine Dialogue, and other information related to our work preventing and dealing with sexual abuse.


Cover of report, "Preventing and Addressing Sexual Abuse of Patients"Table of Contents


The CPSO Council established a Task Force in 1991 to make recommendations to deal effectively with the societal problem of sexual abuse of patients. Its major recommendations, including mandatory revocation, were supported by all parties in the Legislature and led to the introduction in November 1992 of Bill 100 – the Regulated Health Professions Amendment Act, 1992. This section summarizes the provisions of Bill 100, which came into force on December 31, 1993.

Back to list

The CPSO’s Patient Relations Program

The College’s Patient Relations Program is just one of the very important ways we support victims of sexual abuse, and advance our goal of preventing sexual abuse of patients. Reviewing our program is also an important component of the initiative currently underway. This section outlines the many successful activities undertaken since 1993 aimed at preventing and dealing with the sexual abuse of patients by physicians, including the formation of the Patient Relations Committee; providing patients who have been sexually abused with funding for therapy and counselling; educating physicians and issuing guidelines for the conduct of physicians with their patients; training College staff; and keeping the public informed about sexual abuse and available resources.

Back to list

Implementation of Task Force Recommendations

We provide an overview of previous recommendations made in the 1991 Task Force Report; 2000 Task Force Report; and/or Health Professions Regulatory Advisory Council Report; along with the current policies/practices the College has implemented to address them. The summary is divided into seven sections — Education; Patient Information and Support; Investigations; Hearings; Penalties/Outcomes; CPSO Training/Expertise; and Funding for Therapy and Counselling — and are further broken down into past recommendations and rationale, and actions taken by the College.

Back to list

Continually Taking Steps to Protect the Public

In keeping with the College’s mandate to protect the public, we continue to take steps to protect patients and the public from sexual abuse by physicians. Examples of our activities include refusing to allow a spousal exception to the mandatory sexual abuse provisions and revoking physicians’ licences in sexual misconduct cases where the acts didn’t meet the conditions for mandatory revocation. We believe our foremost responsibility when dealing with sexual abuse by physicians is to protect victims. As a part of the new initiative focused on physician sexual abuse, we are actively considering how we can continue to improve our processes and activities, including improving the accessibility of information on the College’s website, developing principles with respect to the College’s approach to sexual abuse matters, and analyzing the RHPA provisions relating to sexual abuse to determine what changes, if any, are necessary in order to strengthen the legislative framework. This section of the report is comprised of an extensive list of actions and proposals in relation to the College’s mandate to protect the public.

Back to list