Temerra Dixon wants you to know what happened to her in the hopes that people will get angry and loud enough to pressure the government to change the law so that doctors who molest their patients automatically lose their licences.
But up until now she was only known by a single letter — one of four female patients who were the focus of Dr. Javad Peirovy’s recent discipline hearing at the College of Physicians and Surgeons.
She wasn’t even allowed to fully express her outrage at the end of Peirovy’s discipline proceedings. The college censored a part of her victim impact statement where she was critical of the regulatory body and called for Peirovy to lose his licence. She was told victims are not allowed to make submissions on sentencing.
The Toronto doctor was found guilty last year of sexually abusing the four women, and given a sixth-month suspension last week.
“This makes it real,” Dixon, 33, told the Star in an interview this week, shortly before the CPSO lifted a publication ban on her identity at her request.
“People see there’s a face behind Ms. X. It could be your friend, your daughter, your mother. This way it’s real. Ms. X doesn’t even sound human.”
She’s furious, particularly given the fact that nearly every other form of sexual abuse leads to the mandatory revocation of a doctor’s licence — a loophole in the legislation for which the government has no clear timeline to address.
“It diminishes the importance of what happened to me,” she said.
A married mother to a 1-year-old daughter, Dixon said she’s lost confidence in the oversight of medical professionals in Ontario, and says she will never be able to see a male doctor again.
“I have been thoroughly disturbed that this happened but what disturbs me even further is the fact that this man was able to continue practising for the last 5 years (under restrictions but still practising),” she said in the part of her original impact statement, which was not heard by the board.
“I understand due process but it has taken way too long and my trust in the CPSO and justice system has been marred. If Dr. Peirovy is able to continue practising as a doctor in Ontario, in Canada, it will be a gross injustice to his victims (me) and an insult to the citizens of this province.”
A four-member panel of the college’s discipline committee concluded last week that Peirovy is at a low-risk to reoffend and would be capable of practising with counseling and training. He must also have a female chaperone while treating female patients.
The panel was chaired by former CPSO president Dr. Marc Gabel, and also included Drs. John Watts and Robert Sheppard and community member Diane Doherty.
The decision to suspend Peirovy rather than revoke his licence led to an outcry from critics and the public, not to mention Dixon herself, who described the ruling as a “punch in the stomach.”
Even the CPSO’s registrar came out against it, saying the regulatory body was “disappointed.”
It increased the pressure on Health Minister Dr. Eric Hoskins to revamp the province’s Regulated Health Professions Act, enacted in 1994, which currently allows doctors who grope to avoid losing their licences by leaving that decision to the discretion of discipline panels.
The issue was highlighted by a 2014 Star investigation, and led Hoskins to launch a task force in December 2014 to study sexual abuse among health-care professionals.
But 16 months later, he’s unable to say when the task force’s report and recommendations will be released, or when the government plans to propose amendments to the RHPA.
“I fully intend to release the report and recommendations and I expect to be able to do that in the relatively near future,” he said in an interview last week.
The foot-dragging doesn’t make any sense to Dixon, who was groped under her bra by Peirovy at a Toronto walk-in clinic in February 2010 while he was examining her with a stethoscope. She had come in with a possible ear infection and some chest congestion.
“This should have been dealt with a long time ago,” she said.
Groping is a huge violation of the patient’s trust and safety, and shouldn’t be considered less serious than other forms of sexual abuse, Dixon said.
“This gives me the sense that they’re telling me I should just get over it, that it’s minor, that it’s nothing serious,” she said. “Yes it’s a different form of sexual abuse, but it’s still under the sexual abuse umbrella…It’s still very detrimental to the mental health of everybody put in this position.”
Peirovy denied the allegations before the discipline committee, and his lawyer did not return a request for comment this week. The committee found in July that Dixon was a “reliable and credible witness” whose recollection of events was clear.
“In particular, the Committee finds that during the course of his examination, Dr. Peirovy cupped her breasts and used his fingers to put pressure on her nipples, which she described as ‘tweaking,’” the panel wrote.
“The Committee finds that Dr. Peirovy did not have consent to touch his patient in this manner and that there was no clinical reason to examine Ms. X in this way. The cupping of her breasts with his hand and ‘tweaking’ of her nipples are actions which, to the objective observer, would be construed as sexual in nature.”
Dixon remembers instantly thinking that what Peirovy was doing was wrong, but she remained still.
“I was frozen. I had never dealt with something like that and didn’t know how to react,” she said. “I just thought ‘I gotta get out of here, gotta get out.’”
After a brief conversation with Peirovy, she left, met her then-boyfriend in the waiting room and told him everything once they were outside. The next day Dixon went on the CPSO’s website and got the impression that she had to fill out a formal report.
“I just thought, ‘Number one they’re not going to believe me, and number 2, I have to go through this mess of paper,’” she said. “I’m angry with myself for this, but I let it go.”
But that changed several months later, in August 2010, when she saw Peirovy’s picture on TV after he had been criminally charged with sexual assault. She called the police right away.
“I guess someone had come forward. Whoever that was, amazing, thumbs up to them.”
Peirovy would ultimately be charged with six counts of sexually assaulting patients, but the Crown dropped four of them after he pled guilty in 2013 to simple assault in the other two cases. He was given a conditional discharge and 18 months’ probation and was ordered by the court to take counselling.
Dixon said her case was among those that were withdrawn.
“I was so upset,” she said. “I flipped out. I said this is not a simple assault case. It made angry that they were going to take something I thought was more severe and dumb it down. I said you have to keep it as is.”
After the criminal proceedings came the discipline hearing at the CPSO, which moved at a glacial pace in Dixon’s view. She said she feels her testimony before the committee went well.
“My anger came out a bit more,” she said. “I was able to really voice how I feel.”
But when it came time to submit a victim impact statement for Peirovy’s penalty hearing, Dixon said her request to read the statement herself was rebuffed — she was told it would be presented by the college’s lawyer — and the college cut a chunk of her original statement.
“It was a victim impact statement and they took the impact out of my statement,” she said.
While not commenting specifically on Dixon’s case, CPSO spokeswoman Kathryn Clarke said matters that go beyond the harm and consequences as a result of the abuse “are not the proper subject of victim impact statements.” She said this is also the case in criminal proceedings.
Dixon is calling on other patients who have been sexually abused by health care professionals to report their assaults.
“There needs to be more people to come forward and to scream this as loud as they can because the only way this is going to change is if people come forward,” she said.
“If this is allowed to continue, it could be your friend, your mom, your sister. It could be anybody. We’ve got to stop this now.”
Author: Jacques Gallant