Recently, a Toronto anesthesiologist had his certificate of registration revoked by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO) and was criminally sentenced to 10 years in prison for assaulting a number of female patients.  Most of the offenses allegedly occurred in a busy hospital operating room while the patients where under anesthetic. I have no first-hand knowledge of this particular case or of any of the circumstances that surrounded it.  I mention it merely as an example where a health care professional failed to uphold even the most basic standards of their profession – and of society.  When a transgression like this occurs in the midst of a team environment, we are all left to wonder “how could that happen” and “what could have been done to prevent or stop it?”

Dr. Patricia Houston, president of the Canadian Anesthesiologists’ Society, spoke recently about the case on CBC Radio’s Metro Morning.  She said that it illustrates the “collective responsibility” all health care professionals have to safeguard the patients in their care[1].  It is important to remember that it cannot be assumed that someone else will bring a concern forward to the appropriate people or agency.  Admittedly, it can be challenging to report a coworker, especially if there are suspicions that something is not quite right but there’s no clear cut evidence.  An RT may feel that voicing their concerns will invite retaliation and make them appear disloyal to the team. They may also worry about damaging a colleague’s reputation if their concerns turn out to be unfounded. However, an RT’s primary accountability is to the patients receiving services within their organization and all patients are entitled to receive safe, competent and ethical care.

Fortunately, there are several avenues that an RT can take if they feel another health care professional has behaved inappropriately or failed to provide the appropriate standard of care.  First, if the conduct of the individual places patients in imminent danger, then the RT must immediately alert the appropriate person or department within their organization.  If the colleague is a member of a regulated health care profession, the RT should also contact that person’s regulatory College.  It is each health regulatory college’s duty to investigate complaints and determine if the cases merit further action.  If an RT wishes to remain anonymous, it’s best to contact the relevant College and find out what options they have.  There are often ways that Colleges can investigate an individual’s concerns without revealing their identity.

Patients need our support and advocacy…not our silence.

[1] Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. (2014, February 25). Dr. George Doodnaught gets 10 years for sex assaults. Retrieved from

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