People trying to get the suspension of a Fredericton doctor overturned are making assumptions without knowing the full story or understanding the gravity of his misconduct, says the registrar of the New Brunswick College of Physicians and Surgeons.
The college suspended Dr. Everette Hanson for having sex with a patient.
Some of his supporters have managed to figure out who the patient is and have been sending her vicious messages online, said Dr. Ed Schollenberg, the college registrar.
The suspension has sparked an outcry from former patients and led to the creation of an online petition to have the suspension lifted. There were more than 3,400 names as of Wednesday afternoon.
Schollenberg said supporters of the petition are making assumptions about what should have happened without knowing all of the facts.
"I've seen all kinds of versions of who started what and who did what to who, and it's totally based on imagination," he said.
"At the end of day, as I've said, it doesn't matter, no matter what the nature was, who was aggressive, whether it was consensual — it's wrong.
"It's been wrong for a long time, the doctor knew it was wrong, the doctor could have dropped the patient as a patient and continued on if he wished to, but he didn't, and we're left with this situation."
Now, those in support of Hanson have started attacking the patient through social media and via email, which is "unfortunate," Schollenberg said.
He said he was forwarded some of the messages from the patient's husband.
Taken very seriously
Hanson, whose practice functioned primarily as a walk-in clinic, was not the regular doctor of the woman whose complaint led to the suspension, but he did see her occasionally at his practice.
According to the College of Physicians and Surgeons, the relationship Hanson had with her lasted about three years and concluded in 2016. A few months later, the woman and her husband filed a complaint with the college.
Hanson pleaded guilty to professional misconduct under the Medical Act following an investigation by the college and discussions among lawyers.
Schollenberg said doctors are in a position to take advantage of their patients because they have access to information most people can't get, which is why inappropriate relationships with patients are taken very seriously.
"These are severe things because you are in a position to take advantage, to do things that other people are not allowed to do because you're a professional, to have access to money and secrets that other people can't," he said.
"We have always realized that the lowest a professional could go was to take advantage of their patient or client."
The fact that Hanson wasn't the patient's regular doctor is beside the point, Schollenberg said, and actually aggravates the matter, because there's no reason why he needed to continue to see her, he said.
Can't reverse sanction
In an interview with Information Morning Fredericton on Wednesday, Steven Berthelot, the creator of the petition in support of Hanson, said he is hoping the college will see the public's support for the suspended doctor and review its decision.
However, Berthelot said he could not suggest any alternative sanctions.
Schollenberg said that very often, patients do support a doctor who has been sanctioned "because they've only seen the positive side of the physician."
But the college is not in a position to reverse its decision based on Hanson's popularity, he said.