Psychiatrist’s decades of sex transgressions over
By Tara Deschamps
November 30, 2015
It took close to three decades, criminal charges and dozens of complainants for disgraced psychiatrist Stanley Dobrowolski to finally lose his right to practise medicine.
For years, the London, Ont., doctor had hung on to his medical licence amid allegations of having inappropriate relationships with women, sexually assaulting patients and surreptitiously recording some as young as 17 in stages of undress to accumulate a stash of about 10,000 images and videos.
He appeared before a College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO) discipline committee four times and was finally criminally charged with related offences, but never had his certificate to practise revoked.
That is, until Monday.
After hearing how Dobrowolski fondled the breasts, vaginas and bodies of female patients, a college committee decided, “Society will be for the better if Dr. Dobrowolski never practises again.”
What’s remarkable is that it took this long to reach that conclusion, said Toronto medical malpractice lawyer Amani Oakley.
“The sheer number of women who have come forward with concerns or complaints about this doctor’s sexual improprieties, strongly suggests there are many others out there who couldn’t or wouldn’t make a complaint or have been left too devastated to advocate for themselves,” said Oakley, in an email to the Star.
“The CPSO is supposed to protect the public against problem doctors. It certainly appears that they failed to accomplish their task in Dr. Dobrowolski’s case.”
She said he was given “far more chances than I would consider reasonable” to correct his conduct — a sentiment college counsel Morgana Kellythorne echoed in court Monday when she said Dobrowolski “has shown himself, in short, to be ungovernable.”
Dobrowolski, a former psychiatrist at Western University’s Student Health Services who also operated a practice out of his home, wasn’t there to hear the criticism or see his career as a psychiatrist extinguished.
In October 2012, Dobrowolski’s licence was suspended — on an interim basis, CPSO documents say — pending a hearing. When that hearing finally arrived Monday, the jail sentence he’s been serving since May 2014 — for 16 counts of sexual assault, one count of voyeurism involving nine women and one count of breaching a court order involving 12 women — kept him from attending.
He’s among a handful of doctors whose improprieties the Star has revealed. After recent Star investigations, the college agreed to kick-start a task force investigating doctors who continue to practise after being found guilty of misconduct for sexually abusing patients.
Oakley said she hopes situations like this will figure into the panel’s investigation.
The first time Dobrowolski came to the college’s attention, in 1995, he admitted that he had sexual intercourse with a patient who had just attempted suicide. Their trysts, the college heard, had occurred at a conference in Ottawa, in a hotel on the way to his cottage and at his home when his wife and children were away.
It had a profound effect on his patient.
“Her problems were not being treated, she has stated that she will never again see a psychiatrist and she is confused regarding sexuality. His behaviour has put her squarely at risk for self-harm,” college documents said.
Yet Dobrowolski’s punishment was only a suspension for 12 months, with the latter nine waived if the psychiatrist sought treatment and submitted to supervision.
The second time he was in front of the college committee was for a series of offences stemming from interactions with four university students.
Between 1987 and 1991, some of the complainants alleged, Dobrowolski kissed them, made comments about their appearance, took them out for drinks and completed inappropriate breast examinations.
His licence was not removed. Instead, he was subject to five months of supervision of his practice.
The next time he sparked criticism was 2004 and three patients were coming forward with a range of concerns — crossing patient-doctor boundaries, allowing a patient to become emotionally dependent on him and conducting a full-body check for moles on a patient’s body, which she described as making her uncomfortable.
His punishment this time involved a six-month suspension of his certificate to practice and restrictions on conducting physical examinations.
He was supposed to communicate the limitations to his patients, but at Monday’s hearing, the committee heard that many were unaware of the restrictions. Those who knew of them said he downplayed them.
Those same patients filed complaints that made up some of the most egregious of his offences, including engaging in the sexual abuse of a female, sexually touching patients, masturbating patients, giving a patient money to buy lingerie, shaving a patient, hugging and kissing a patient and offering to undress for appointments. (The offences were reiterated Monday in a statement of facts agreed upon by Dobrowolski’s legal counsel and the CPSO.)
Most of his actions were completed under the guise of searching for moles and cancerous cysts on their bodies.
Some patients allowed him to photograph marks he identified as questionable. Little did many know, he was using secret cameras to record their visits and amassing a collection of images featuring their scantily clad or naked bodies.
But while closure might have come with his jail sentence and his licence being stripped Monday, his victims’ impact statements are a harrowing trove of words, suggesting the damage done to them has lingered.
Said one of his victims, whose name is under publication ban, “The struggle is not over. No place really feels safe now . . . I still have panic attacks. I am working hard to regain my life.”