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We continue with our series of general educational articles penned by one attorney, an MD, JD, giving you a view of the world through a malpractice plaintiff attorney’s eyes. The series includes a number of pearls on how to stay out of harm’s way.

While I do not necessarily agree with 100% of the details of every article, I think the messages are salient, on target, and fully relevant.

That’s the question before a discipline panel of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, which must determine if Toronto doctor Nagi Ghabbour should become the first physician in the province to have his licence yanked for becoming romantically involved with a former patient too soon after the end of the doctor-patient relationship.

The penalty of revocation is “appropriate and necessary to protect the public and ensure that public trust in the profession is maintained and that public trust in the regulator is maintained,” college lawyer Elisabeth Widner told the five-member panel Wednesday.

(e) When physicians see content posted by colleagues that appears unprofessional they have a responsibility to bring that content to the attention of the individual, so that he or she can remove it and/or take other appropriate actions.

If the behavior significantly violates professional norms and the individual does not take appropriate action to resolve the situation, the physician should report the matter to appropriate authorities.

“It’s an indication of where our society is moving in Ontario with regards to this type of conduct,” Widner told the panel.The underlying challenge: a doctor is a fiduciary for the patient, bound to act solely for the patient’s good (because the patient is inherently in a vulnerable state); and, in a romantic relationship there should be equality between the parties choosing to be in that relationship.AMA Opinion 8.14, which is given weight by state boards and by courts, holds that sexual contact between a doctor and a patient that is concurrent with the doctor-patient relationship constitutes sexual misconduct per se.The Internet has created the ability for medical students and physicians to communicate and share information quickly and to reach millions of people easily.Participating in social networking and other similar Internet opportunities can support physicians’ personal expression, enable individual physicians to have a professional presence online, foster collegiality and camaraderie within the profession, provide opportunity to widely disseminate public health messages and other health communication.

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