Recommended Changes to Ban on Treating Spousal Patients

August 13, 2012

The Health Professions Regulatory Advisory Council (HPRAC) in Ontario released a report entitled The Spousal Patient in June, recommending the current legislation be amended to allow regulated health professionals, including dentists, to provide treatment to their spouses.

Under the Regulated Health Professions Act, 1991 (RHPA), the treatment of spouses by dentists and other regulated health-care professionals who are in intimate relationships constitutes sexual abuse. The HPRAC report specifically recommends that the “the treatment of spouses by health care professionals should be expressly exempted in the sexual abuse provisions of the RHPA. Specifically, the language of the RHPA should be amended to exempt spouses from the definition of sexual abuse, as the treatment of a spouse by a health care professional is not regarded as sexual abuse.”

“On behalf of dentists across Ontario, I’m pleased that HPRAC has recommended changes that would allow dentists to treat their spouses,” said Dr. Arthur Worth, President of the Ontario Dental Association. “The report was definitely a step in the right direction, but we continue to ask all three parties of the Ontario Legislature to work together to ensure timely passage of a Bill that would allow spousal treatment.”

However, until the current legislation is changed, dentists must not treat their spouses, unless emergency care is required.

In considering HPRAC’s recommendations, the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care is seeking input from dentists and other stakeholders with an interest in the HPRAC report. The deadline for submissions is August 17, 2012. The dental community (dentists, spouses of dentists and dental hygienists) responded in large numbers to HPRAC’s consultation, representing 43 percent of the individual submissions to HPRAC. In fact, a resounding number of stakeholders desire a change to the current law. HPRAC notes: “Ninety-seven percent of participating stakeholders indicated dissatisfaction with the current definition of sexual abuse when applied to treatment of spouses by health professionals.”

The CDA will monitor this situation closely and provide updates as new information is available.