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Dental Hygienist Stripped Of License For Sexually Assaulting A Patient.

This is a story out of Canada, but it illustrates the all too often lunacy of regulations.

A dental hygienist in Canada has been stripped of his license and labeled a “sexual abuser” by an Ontario regulatory body because he engaged in sexual relations with a patient. That patient was his wife.

The College of Dental Hygienists of Ontario (CDHO) has barred Alex Tanase from the profession for at least five years, and online records will indicate that he was terminated over sexual abuse.

Someone tell us how this makes sense?

Alexandru Tanase, who has been working in dentistry for nearly two decades, said his wife suffers from dental fear and anxiety “like so many other clients,” and he cleaned her teeth on several occasions between April 2015 and August 2016.

In the Canadian province of Ontario, it’s considered professional misconduct if a dental hygienist “has sexually abused a client,” according to the Regulated Health Professionals Act. This can include sexual intercourse or other types of physical sexual relations with a patient. This also includes a spouse.

“The definition of sexual abuse includes the treatment of spouses even if there was a pre-existing spousal relationship prior to dental hygiene treatment being performed,” guidelines posted on the College of Dental Hygienists of Ontario website state. “It is important to note that a client’s consent to treatment in these cases is irrelevant; it still amounts to sexual abuse as defined in the legislation.

Currently, the only health care providers in Ontario who are exempt from the law and are allowed to treat their husbands or wives are dentists.

[….]

A complaint was later filed in the summer of 2016 with the CDHO by a former friend and Facebook acquaintance of Tanase’s wife, who saw a photo she posted of the two at the office saying how happy she was with her dentist, according to Tanase.

Tanase said an investigator showed up at this workplace in Nov. 2016 to look into the complaint. Tanase said he later appeared before the discipline committee in April 2018 and was found guilty of sexual abuse under the Regulated Health Professionals Act. His license was also revoked for five years, which is the mandatory penalty for sexual abuse of a client. (emphasis ours)

We would argue that a husband taking care of his wife with her consent is not a matter any court, tribunal or group should have a say in.

We would also argue that no matter how a rule defines it, if there is no “sexual assault,” (and there isn’t in this case) there is no reason for Tanase to have on his record that his license was suspended for five years for sexual assault. How can one be suspended for an act that never occurred?

What may be even worse is that the courts were no help.

Tanase appealed to the courts, arguing the law violated his constitutional rights.

In its ruling, the Divisional Court panel said Tanase posed no danger to the public, and expressed sympathy for the couple given that he cannot practise for at least five years.

The panel noted a previous case in which the college took no action against a female hygienist who treated her husband in light of their pre-existing spousal relationship and questioned why the Tanase complaint had gone forward. The court also said it seemed unfair that dentists can treat their spouses but hygienists can’t.

Nevertheless, the panel ruled the licence revocation as a “sexual abuser” and “stigma” of having details of his discipline posted on the college’s public website were constitutional and did not amount to cruel or unusual punishment. Current law and previous legal decisions upholding the validity of the sex ban and mandatory punishment for a violation had tied its hands, the court said.

“Unless and until the Ontario government approves the regulation put forward by the College of Dental Hygienists to enact a spousal exemption, the mandatory revocation and ancillary relief imposed by the discipline committee as they pertain to spouses must be upheld,” the panel said.

We would disagree that the loss of a license for five years which carries all sorts of financial implications for Tanase and his wife for an act that never occurred is “cruel and unusual punishment.” The fact that Tanase will be forever known as a “sexual abuser” is most assuredly “cruel and unusual punishment.”

In addition, to even get a court to hear the case cost Tanase and his wife $35,000. Tanase is trying to appeal the ruling and will cost him at least another $35,000 (he has set up a GoFundMe account to help.) Of course, while Tanase has to pay the court costs out of his pocket, the Board is using tax money to defend its policies.

However, the question still remains, “where is the governmental interest in this case?”

How is society made better by telling a dental hygienist that they cannot treat their spouse?

We regulate too much. Often such regulations are proposed and supported by trade groups seeking to limit participation within the marketplace even when there is no physical harm to others by that participation.

For example, you may remember the case in Louisiana where monks from the St Joseph Abbey were shut down for selling handmade wooden coffins because the Louisiana Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors made a rule that only businesses that offer funeral services may sell coffins. Obviously that rule benefited funeral directors who wanted to keep the monks out of the business. The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals finally put a nail in that case, but the point remains:

Governments regulate economic activity far too much.

Tanase has a Facebook post which is extremely long, but is worth the read.

In the post, Tanase makes the really good points of:

However, it gets better. In its ruling the CDHO [College of Dental Hygienists of Ontario] said, and I quote, “we sincerely hope to see you again as a active member of the dental hygiene profession”! When, after 5 years? Are you kidding me! At this rate, you’ll find me in a mental institute. Here is another one from the CDHO: “we also recognize that it seems unfair that the dentists may treat their spouses while dental hygienists lose their licence and are branded sexual abusers for so doing”! So they acknowledge this but still nothing has been done about it. and here is the BEST ONE! “This Appelant, had he not honestly believed that he was allowed to treat his spouse, could easily have treated her at home, without pay so as not to incur these repercussions.” In other words, break the law at home and nobody will know.

We hope Tanase gets justice in this case and that not only is his conviction overturned, his license re-instated, and his record expunged but that this ridiculous law / rule be repealed and abolished forever.



One Response to “Dental Hygienist Stripped Of License For Sexually Assaulting A Patient.”

  1. Carla says:

    How absurd!

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