Dialogue Volume 14 Issue 4 2018 - Page 47

DISCIPLINE SUMMARIES PATIENT A Patient A, a woman in her 30s, saw Dr. Bingham in his office about eight times between July and August of 2016. She was having significant problems in her relationship with her partner at the time. At the first visit, Dr. Bingham asked Patient A if he could give her a hug because she was crying so much. Patient A agreed and thought Dr. Bingham was com- passionate and seemed professional. Dr. Bingham hugged Patient A, which she described as a platonic hug. Thereafter, Dr. Bingham hugged Patient A after each appointment. After another visit, which was the last appointment of the day, as Patient A was planning to walk home, Dr. Bingham asked to walk with her. He said he was headed to a store in the same direction Patient A was walking. While walking with Patient A, Dr. Bingham said that he wondered what people would think see- ing a pretty young girl like her with him. Patient A found this odd, but thought he was trying to make her feel good about herself. When Patient A and Dr. Bingham got to the store, they hugged as usual, but Dr. Bingham held her longer and closer than before, and then kissed her on the cheek. At the last appointment, while completing paper- work for Patient A’s employer, Dr. Bingham patted Patient A’s thigh with his hand while she was wear- ing shorts and their chairs were close together. Dr. Bingham then said he would have to start seeing her every week. When Patient A asked if he had time in his schedule, Dr. Bingham responded that he always had time for her. What does this mean? We provide definitions for the legal terminology used in the discipline process Admission The physician admits that the facts alleged amount to professional mis- conduct and/or incompetence. Plea of No Contest The physician does not contest the facts. The College files a statement of facts as an exhibit at the hearing. The Discipline Committee can accept the facts as correct and make a finding of professional misconduct and/or incompetence. The physician does not admit to the facts or findings for the purpose of any other proceeding. Agreed Statement of Facts A statement of facts that are negoti- ated and agreed to by the College and the physician. It is filed as an exhibit at the hearing. Joint Submission on Penalty A penalty that is proposed to the Committee as an appropriate penalty by both the College and the physi- cian. In law, the Discipline Committee must accept a joint submission on penalty unless it would be contrary to the public interest and bring the ad- ministration of justice into disrepute. Contested Hearing The physician denies the allegations. The College must prove the allega- tions on a balance of probabilities (the civil standard of proof) by calling evidence such as witnesses. If one or more of the allegations is proved, a penalty hearing is scheduled. The College and the physician may agree and jointly propose a penalty to the Committee or they may disagree and a contested penalty hearing takes place. Aggravating, Mitigating Circumstances Aggravating and mitigating circum- stances may be considered by the Discipline Committee in determining an appropriate penalty. Mitigating and aggravating circumstances are considered by the Committee, so that the penalty imposed is proportionate to the gravity of the physician’s con- duct, and the degree of responsibility of the physician. Mitigating circum- stances tend to reduce penalties, whereas aggravating circumstances tend to increase penalties. Aggravating circumstances could include: a high degree of vulnerability of the person(s) affected by the phy- sician’s conduct; a prior disciplinary history with the College; and a lack of insight by the physician into his or her own misconduct. Mitigating circumstances could in- clude: a clean disciplinary record; an admission to the facts underlying the allegations in advance of a hearing; cooperating with the investigation; a demonstration of remorse or regret about the effects of the misconduct on others; taking remedial steps on the physician’s own initiative prior to a finding or an order by the College. ISSUE 4, 2018 DIALOGUE 47