Ottawa psychiatrist barred over 'disgraceful' conduct

An Ottawa psychiatrist who hired a patient as her personal nurse, shared confidential information in a group therapy session and asked clients to run errands for her will no longer practise medicine, following a ruling by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario's discipline committee. 

Dr. Susan Louise Roche, 68, who didn't attend her disciplinary hearing last month, pleaded no contest to a list of allegations, including that she was "incompetent in her care and treatment of Patient A."

According to an agreed statement of fact, Roche treated the anonymous patient for clinical depression for more than 20 years, and acted inappropriately on several occasions during the last few years of their relationship.

After she underwent abdominal surgery, Roche hired the patient as her personal, live-in nurse.

The college found that went beyond the boundaries of an acceptable therapist-patient relationship, and ruled Roche exacerbated the situation by shouting at the patient, using foul language and refusing to pay the patient's full fee.

Former patient's trust 'shattered'

During one of their private sessions, Roche asked the patient to move with her to British Columbia and become a tenant in the home she planned to buy there. 

When the patient eventually stopped booking individual sessions in 2015, Roche advised the patient not to attend group therapy.

The patient later learned that Roche had told the rest of the group that "Patient A was absent because she had 'regressed' and there was a parking issue."

In its written decision, the committee said the patient's "trust was shattered," plunging her further into depression. 

Two other psychiatrists provided professional opinions on the patient's case, each saying Roche's behaviour toward the patient showed "a lack of skill and judgment as a therapist."

Roche also overcharged OHIP by billing for family therapy for the patient's individual sessions.

Patients asked to run errands

The committee said Roche also took advantage of the therapist-patient relationship "for personal gain" by asking other patients to run personal errands.  

Roche asked one patient to "retrieve her eye medication," while another patient "frequently picked up groceries for her."

These actions were unprofessional, the committee wrote, and "she should have known better."

Roche was certified by the college in 1989 and practised medicine in Ottawa.

As of last month, she has resigned from the college and agreed not to apply as a physician in Ontario or any jurisdiction in the future. 

The college has also ordered Roche to pay $5,500 to cover the cost of her hearing, and delivered a public reprimand, saying Roche exhibited "selfish, self-serving, disgraceful, and unprofessional behaviour" that was "profoundly destructive of public trust."