Hunter v College of Physicians & Surgeons of
Alberta, 2014 ABCA 262 (Alta CA), upholding the decision of
the Council for the College and dismissing the appeal.
A physician who married his former patient challenged his
regulatory college's finding of unprofessional conduct on the
basis that he had breached the College's standard of
The physician admitted that he had floated a "trial
balloon" of marriage during the physician-patient
relationship. However, he argued that this was not a breach of the
standard of practice because he suffered from erectile dysfunction
and therefore the relationship lacked a sexual component and was
The disciplinary tribunal considered the standard of practice
that prohibited a physician from terminating a physician-patient
relationship "in order to pursue a sexual or personal
relationship." It held that the relationship in question fell
under the definition of a personal relationship, and no sexual
component was required. The ruling was upheld at an internal appeal
to the Council of the College, although the Council reduced the
length of suspension. On further appeal to the Court of Appeal, the
majority of the Court stressed the need for deference on review of
a professional regulator's interpretation of its own standards
of conduct and upheld the decision, overruling the dissenting
judgment that the interpretation of a "personal
relationship" necessarily implied an improper relationship
such as a "predatory or exploitive relationship."
Comment:Hunter illustrates the
deference shown to professional regulators when they are applying
and interpreting their home legislation, especially on matters well
within their expertise, such as professional standards of
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