Ontario psychiatrist’s licence on the line after alleged romantic relationship with third patient
By Joseph Brean
September 27, 2015
This detail, which prompted the woman to crack a smile, was a rare moment of levity in testimony that veered from panic to tears, as she told a tribunal how Dr. Paul Michael Porter of Ontario’s Niagara region allegedly manipulated her emotions by pledging his love, confessing private details of his own life, promising to run away with her, even passionately kissing her after psychotherapy.
She seemed almost bashful about the doughnuts, not without reason, as the tender and supposedly therapeutic relationship she described sounded more like the twisted mutual fantasy of a deluded patient and a drastically wayward, even perhaps predatory, physician.
As she told it, they were falling in love. In medicine, this tends to end badly.
“At first we became more like friends,” testified the woman, whose identity is protected, a 52-year-old mother of five who works in the service industry and is reconciled with her husband, whom she left for two years while under Porter’s care. “I thought we just enjoyed each other’s company.”
I thought we just enjoyed each other’s company
That is a common but sinister misunderstanding, known in psychiatry as transference. He was treating her for devastating panic attacks and crippling anxiety. He was not her friend. He was billing the province.
More than that, though, when he allegedly kissed her, three times in all, he would guide her out of view of the video camera that had been placed in his office by Ontario’s medical regulator to monitor his sessions, after the last time he was accused of sexual abuse, over two other women with similarly dire and erratic mental states. The current alleged victim knew it was there, she testified, but Porter told her there were only “accusations” and he was “totally innocent,” which is not the case.
This tribunal of the College of Physicians and Surgeons in Toronto is not Porter’s first lap of the disciplinary track, nor even his second.
Porter, 66, who lives in Grimsby and has a practice in St. Catharines, denies the allegations by Ontario’s medical regulator of misconduct and sexual abuse during his care of the woman between 2008 and 2012. His tribunal, which adjourned last week until November, has yet to hear closing arguments.
The first case against him led to a 2002 split decision, convicting him of incompetence and misconduct, but narrowly clearing him of sexually abusing two female patients, then 35 and 52, in treatment for dissociative identity disorder and borderline personality disorder.
A minority, including the chair, believed the two women’s stories of sex in his office, and would have convicted on sex abuse. They thought Porter, in his defence, “attempted to use the symptoms of their illnesses to explain their perception of being sexually abused.”
The College tried to suspend his licence for 30 months, but a court overturned it as unduly harsh. Still, he was barred from treating borderline personality or dissociative identity disorders for five years, among other terms. This case arose after that ban expired.
Members of that first tribunal also endured a bizarre legal strategy, based on Porter’s claim to have distinctive “papules” on his penis, under his foreskin, which one of the alleged victims ought to have known, but did not recall in testimony. This defence tactic is not uncommon when the credibility of a sexual abuse complainant is a key factor, though it is usually done with actual pictures of the defendant’s body. In Porter’s case, he simply showed a “magnified” textbook photo of the condition and claimed he had it.
The minority was especially skeptical, and also thought he was trying to deliberately confuse them with his knowledge of psychiatry.
The second time, for which Porter was ordered to serve a one month licence suspension in 2012, he admitted taking money from a dissociative identity disorder patient and her husband, thousands of dollars in cash and cheques, after becoming so close she felt he was “akin to a member of her family.”
This time, even though no actual sex is alleged, it seems likely Porter’s licence is on the line. His case was not sparked by a complaint, but by the College’s mandatory reporting rule for doctors, when the woman went to her family doctor, asking him to take over management of her medication, as she was leaving her psychiatrist.
She had realized, she testified, he was not being honest.
“Some things just didn’t make sense,” she said. “There were inconsistencies in what he would say to me.”
The first year of their treatment had been appropriate, after she came to him over panic attacks, but then he started making “flirtatious and sexual” comments.
She had a weight problem and low self-esteem, but his response to this was “that I had a youthful body, a very young body, and he liked that.” She testified he told her she’s perfect just the way she is, and he liked a jacket because it made her breasts perk up. “He thought I had the perfect body.”
“We both had very sore backs and he said we would be funny making love together, with the two of us with our sore backs,” she testified.
Comments about how nice it would be to go to Florida together developed into a two-year plan, that when his son graduated from high school, they would get a place together.
“It sounded like a dream,” she said.
Porter’s lawyer is the same as the first time, Tom Curry. Unusually for the CPSO, which employs its own counsel, the prosecution is being run by Breese Davies, who recently represented VIA train plotter Raed Jaser and has acted at several major inquiries, including Maher Arar, Charles Smith, and Ashley Smith.