Psychiatrist suspended for having sex with patient
By Charlie Fidelman
August 5, 2015
Threatened with a civil suit, psychiatrist Robert Labine revealed to the provincial physicians’ board that he had sex with one of his patients.
The disciplinary committee of the Collège des médecins du Québec this week fined the St-Jérôme psychiatrist $1,000 and suspended him for a year. In a ruling that went into effect Aug. 3, the Collège’s disciplinary committee noted it has “zero tolerance” for code of ethics violations of a sexual nature.
Labine alerted the Collège of his own accord in 2013 after he paid his former patient $269,000 in damages, which put an end to the civil suit.
The woman’s family physician referred her to Labine in December 2008 for treatment for depression. At her request, Labine saw her once a week.
The misconduct occurred during the weekly meeting of March 8, 2010, Labine told the committee. She kissed him, he closed the blinds and then they had sex on the couch.
Labine said he regretted his actions immediately. But worried she might try to kill herself, Labine called her two or three days later, and she asked to meet in a motel. When he refused, she got extremely angry. By April, she had called him more than 500 times, and Labine started seeing a psychiatrist himself because he found the situation so disturbing.
Labine saw his patient twice since the sexual misconduct — and on the second time she made sexual advances. Labine asked his psychiatrist what would be the least harmful for his patient at this point, that he quit being her doctor or continue treating her?
Labine transferred the woman to another psychiatrist; he also stopped treating female clients at his clinic, and started working in prison facilities. In his defence, Labine said it was an isolated incident.
It’s a sad case, the ruling said, noting that Labine’s behaviour damaged the reputation of all psychiatrists and the entire profession. As an expert “in the phenomenon of patients projecting their problems” onto their doctors, Labine should have known better. Also, it’s not clear whether he paid the client a “considerable sum” in an attempt to avoid a complaint to the Collège and the media attention that a civil suit would attract, the ruling says.
Labine already paid a hefty price in out-of-court damages to his former patient, the committee conceded. But despite the fine, the exemplary behaviour since the sexual misconduct, and the fact that Labine has no previous disciplinary actions against him, the committee called for punishment that is “dissuasive and significant.”
In justifying its sanctions, the committee cited a precedent from the Supreme Court of Canada that found the patient-doctor relationship unequal. The doctor is in a position of authority and the patient is ill and most vulnerable to exploitation, and all sexual contact is reprehensible, the court ruled.