Ottawa doctor suspended after taking $10K loan from elderly patient

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario has suspended an Ottawa doctor for three months after he asked for and accepted a $ 10,000 loan from an elderly patient with suspected dementia.   

In July 2016, family physician Dr. Peter Diarmuid Davison cashed a $ 10,000 cheque from a 90-year-old patient after visiting the patient's condo — where he lived alone — to ask for it. Davison had been seeing the patient since the mid-1990s, according to a notice posted on the college's website.

At the time Davison was experiencing "acute financial difficulties" both personally and professionally, and needed the money to pay rent for his office, the college said.

The patient, who isn't named in the college's notice, had been seen by a geriatric nurse in 2015 at the Ottawa Hospital and was evaluated to have "suspected dementia" and "probable mixed mild dementia," the college said. Davison then completed an assessment of the patient in support of his application for admission into a long-term care home.

In a ruling from the college issued May 1, 2018, the discipline committee found Davison committed an act of professional misconduct and suspended his certificate of registration for three months, commencing May 2. 

In addition, Davison has been ordered to complete a one-on-one course in medical ethics at his own expense within the next six months, appear before a panel to be reprimanded, and pay the $ 5,500 cost of the proceedings within 30 days.

Repaid the loan

When Davison asked for the loan in July 2016, he promised the patient he would repay the $ 10,000 loan when he was in a position to do so.

In August 2016, Davison paid another visit to the patient at his condominium, again when the patient was alone, to tell him he was not yet able to return the money. He explained he was expecting a payment from OHIP that hadn't yet arrived. 

On Sept. 1, 2016, a close friend of the patient filed a complaint with the college, and Davison was notified orally and in writing. Nineteen days later, Davison received the OHIP payment, cut a cheque to repay the $ 10,000 loan that same day, and included a thank-you card. The patient deposited the cheque two days later, the college said.

According to the ruling, when an investigator requested confirmation that the money had been repaid, the patient said that as far as he was concerned, the matter was closed.

 A misguided decision

In his October 2016 response to the college, Davison said his decision to ask the patient for the loan was made "while he was under a considerable amount of stress," and that he acknowledged and understood it was misguided, the college wrote.

"While he believed at the time that he and [the patient] were on equal footing, and that [the patient] was not a vulnerable person, he appreciated that he put [the patient] in a difficult position and he apologized."

Davison co-operated with the college's investigation, which began in March 2017, and had no prior disciplinary history.

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