A retired Toronto doctor accused of performing “aggressive” and “overzealous” breast and pelvic exams on 20 patients – some of them young virgins – has been cleared of sexual-abuse allegations, but found guilty of unprofessional conduct in some of the cases.
The disciplinary committee of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, the medical profession’s regulator, concluded that Stanley Bo-Shui Chung’s habit of conducting too-frequent exams, including on women in the first trimester of pregnancy and on teenage girls whose parents’ sought “virginity tests,” broke the college’s rules.
However, his behaviour did not rise to the level of sexual abuse or impropriety, the committee concluded.
It found no evidence of “fondling, lingering, caressing or attempts at stimulation” or other suggestions of a sexual motivation by Dr. Chung, now 66.
What the committee found, instead, was a doctor who failed to keep up with modern standards for obstetrical and gynecological care that encourage physicians to limit intimate exams unless they are medically necessary.
“Dr. Chung, although misguided and clearly mistaken, genuinely believed that all his examinations were necessary. The basis of his belief was the training he had received and he relied on that early training and outdated literature,” the four-member disciplinary panel wrote in a decision released Monday.
“The committee accepted that he believed his examinations were in the best interest of his patients. Although he was wrong in this, the committee accepts that in the circumstances, the examinations he conducted were not of a sexual nature.”
Dr. Chung’s lawyer, Anne Spafford, said in a statement Monday that the disciplinary process has been “extraordinarily distressing” to her client and his family.
“The committee correctly found that there was no evidence of sexual abuse or impropriety. As the committee acknowledged, Dr. Chung based his practises (sic) on his medical training and was always motivated by the best interests of his patients.”
The charges are not criminal. Dr. Chung’s penalties, to be decided at a future date, could range from a public reprimand to a fine of as much as $35,000.
Dr. Chung voluntarily gave up his medical licence in 2012.
The case against Dr. Chung began in January, 2010, when a woman who can only be identified publicly as Ms. A complained to the CPSO that Dr. Chung had performed excessive breast and pelvic exams on her in the late 1980s and early 1990s, beginning when she was 15.
Ms. A came forward on the advice of a psychological counsellor who treated her for postpartum depression after the birth of her son in 2009.
Her file showed Dr. Chung conducted 18 breast and pelvic exams on her in just over two years, from April, 1987, to June, 1989, a frequency Dr. Chung told the disciplinary panel he would not repeat today.
Ms. A’s accusations prompted the CPSO to retain an outside expert to look further into Dr. Chung, who was born in China, raised in Hong Kong and trained at the University of Wisconsin.
He moved to Toronto in 1972, where he became one of the few Chinese-speaking physicians serving a vulnerable community, according to the decision.
The CPSO investigation unearthed a similar pattern of too-frequent breast, pelvic and anal exams in 19 patients, including one case in which Dr. Chung conducted virginity tests on a developmentally delayed teenager at her mother’s behest.
“Dr. Chung appears to have given no thought to how this young woman, who was particularly vulnerable given that she was developmentally challenged, might feel,” the panel wrote. “To repeatedly respond to requests from a parent to assure virginity is, in the committee’s view, unsupportable.”
Four of the 19 patients testified at Dr. Chung’s disciplinary hearing last year.
In the end, the disciplinary committee concluded that Dr. Chung failed to maintain standards of practice in his care and treatment of Ms. A and 10 other patients.
It also found that he engaged in disgraceful, dishonourable or unprofessional conduct in the case of Ms. A and 10 others.