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In the case of Goodwin v Alberta College and Association of Chiropractors, 2022 ABQB 177, Dr. Goodwin is an Alberta chiropractor referred to a disciplinary hearing to determine whether he violated the professional standards of practice prohibiting him from entering into a relationship with a patient who is now his spouse.
Dr. Goodwin applied to have the hearing dispensed with; he argued that while he met Ms. W when she was a patient, he referred her to another practitioner before embarking on a personal relationship. He began treating her again before the “cooling off” period his College requires for non-spousal relationships. The two continue in a relationship which they say is marital in all aspects but that they cannot yet co-habitate because his divorce is not yet finalized and religious reasons prohibit them from doing so until they are married.
As such, Dr. Goodwin applied to the Court to find that Ms. W is his spouse and therefore the hearing is not necessary. The Alberta College and Association of Chiropractors resisted the application stating it to be premature and that the matter ought to proceed to a hearing.
The stakes are high for Dr. Goodwin as a finding that he engaged in a sexual relationship with a patient would result in a permanent loss of his license.
The Court recognized the gatekeeping role of the Complaints Director in that they have the ability to dismiss a complaint where it is trivial or vexatious. The Court noted the seriousness of sexual relationships between practitioners and patients would remove such complaints from the realm of trivial or vexatious. Further, there was an admission of such a relationship but the issue was whether or not it was one which, at the relevant times, fit the College’s definition of a spousal relationship.
Ultimately, the Court determined Dr. Goodwin applied for relief where he anticipated matters would not be interpreted in his favour. The evidence at the stage of the application was not clear and there was an adequate mechanism for resolving the legal question (Dr. Goodwin’s compliance with professional standards) – the process found in the Health Professions Act.
The Court declined to intervene and dismissed the application leaving the matter to be determined by a Hearing Tribunal of the College.
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