A female medical resident at Sunnybrook Hospital who reported an accusation of sexual misconduct against a male supervisor – and then filed a lawsuit against the hospital and her university saying they failed to investigate that complaint – is now being sued by the supervisor for defamation.
It’s been nearly a year since Sophia Duong filed a complaint against Benedict Glover, but no findings have been released, and the matter is still unresolved.
On July 30, 2021, Dr. Duong made her report to Sunnybrook and the University of Toronto, where she is an internal medicine resident and he was an associate professor.
Dr. Duong alleged in her statement of claim that Dr. Glover, a prominent cardiologist at Sunnybrook, had coerced her into a sexual encounter by leveraging the position of power he had over her career. Dr. Glover has denied the allegations against him, including having any sexual contact with Dr. Duong.
(The Globe is naming Dr. Duong with her permission. In an interview, she said it was important to her that she be identified to destigmatize coming forward.)
Since the alleged incident, Dr. Duong has been on stress leave, her medical career on hold. (Dr. Glover was placed on leave after the allegations were made, pending the results of the investigation.) In April, she sued Sunnybrook and the U of T for failing to investigate her complaint. Dr. Glover is also named in the lawsuit. Dr. Duong told The Globe that she has not wanted to return to the hospital with the matter unresolved.
The hospital and university have said in their statements of defence that the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO) is investigating the allegation, and they are awaiting the result. But the CPSO’s website states that the complaint is “being investigated by Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre and the University of Toronto.” (A spokesperson for the CPSO, Shae Greenfield, told The Globe and Mail the college is prohibited from confirming the existence of an investigation.)
Court files say that Dr. Duong graduated from medical school at the University of Toronto in 2020. She began her postgraduate medical training at Sunnybrook that year, with dreams of becoming a cardiologist.
She first met Dr. Glover during her four-week rotation in the cardiology unit, where he acted as her direct clinical supervisor for one of those weeks. At the time of the alleged incident, Dr. Duong and Dr. Glover were about to begin a four-week research project together. Dr. Glover was viewed as a rising star in the clinical and research worlds. She said in her court documents that he became a mentor.
On July 23, 2021, Dr. Glover held a party at his Toronto home for some members of the cardiology unit.
In her statement of claim, which has not been tested in court, Dr. Duong alleged that as people began to leave the party, Dr. Glover asked her to stay to discuss her career aspirations. She alleges he pressed her to drink – “take a drink and we can keep talking” – and then began to kiss her.
From there, the claim continues, they had intercourse on a trampoline in the backyard. A few days later, Dr. Duong spoke to police about what happened. In an interview with officers she acknowledged that she verbally consented, although she was extremely intoxicated, and that, as a medical resident, she was conditioned to do what her supervisor told her to do.
“The events are very blurry. I can’t really remember what I said. I just remember the feeling of being uncomfortable but needing to tough it out,” she told police in a videotaped interview viewed by The Globe.
In her statement of claim, Dr. Duong described the encounter as a sexual assault. She alleged Dr. Glover warned her not to tell anyone or they would both face repercussions. CPSO policy bars supervisors from having sexual relationships with medical students and postgraduate trainees while they are mentoring, teaching, supervising or evaluating them.
On July 24, Dr. Duong went to Women’s College Hospital for a sexual assault kit examination, according to the statement of claim. Swabs were taken, but they have not yet been tested for DNA as Dr. Duong did not pursue criminal charges at the time, said her lawyer, Kathryn Marshall.
In a statement of defence, Dr. Glover denied having sexual contact with Dr. Duong that night, denied encouraging her to drink, and denied he held any power or control over her career. He said that Dr. Duong stayed after other guests left his home, and they talked platonically. He said he went inside around 1 a.m. to check on his children, fell asleep, and found Dr. Duong asleep on the trampoline around 3 a.m.
In filing his defence, Dr. Glover launched a counterclaim saying Dr. Duong has defamed him, and alleging she “invented these allegations for the improper purpose of coercing settlement monies.”
The complicated employment relationship between hospitals and physicians is likely to be a central feature of Dr. Duong’s case. Sunnybrook has argued in its statement of defence that Dr. Glover is not an employee of the hospital. U of T has said the same, stating that Dr. Glover’s position as a clinical academic appointee did not create an employment relationship.
In Canada, most doctors essentially operate as independent contractors who have privileges at hospitals but typically aren’t paid by them. Physicians bill the government directly for their services.
The situation of medical residents is even more complex. Dr. Duong reported to Sunnybrook for work but, as a resident, was part of the University of Toronto’s internal medicine program. Ms. Marshall says this doesn’t mean she is not entitled to workplace protections.
“I am taking the legal position – which is the correct position – that my client was owed every single employment protection that any other employee in this province has,” she said.
For example, she said, both institutions were required to investigate her complaint and take action regardless of what the CPSO was doing.
In its defence, Sunnybrook disclosed that it had retained an outside investigator to probe another complaint against Dr. Glover. Just before the hospital learned about Dr. Duong’s allegations, a departing employee reported that Dr. Glover was involved “in a consensual relationship with one of the employees of the lab funded by Dr. Glover,” the statement says.
On Wednesday, Sunnybrook chief executive officer Andy Smith sent an e-mail to staff about the case: “Issues of this nature are highly upsetting and have given us pause to review our policies and procedures to ensure they are accessible and available to our staff, learners and volunteers.”
Dr. Glover, who is from Ireland, wants to move back, his court filings state. He resigned from Sunnybrook and the university in March, 2022. Without his teaching position, his licence to practice in Ontario expired. The CPSO cannot prohibit physicians from practising in other jurisdictions.
The Globe sent Dr. Glover questions about Dr. Duong’s allegations, the hospital’s and the university’s response, and news that Sunnybrook was looking into another accusation of impropriety. His lawyer, Scott Hutchison, replied: “Dr. Glover will not litigate this issue in the press. He looks forward to being vindicated in court so that he can return his full attention to practising medicine.”
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