Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

Winnipeg doctor who created fake patients to get drugs allowed to practise

Lorazepam pills are shown in Toronto, Friday, July 26, 2013. Clonazepam is a popular sedative used to treat anxiety and sleep disorders, belonging to a class of drugs called benzodiazepines, which are widely used across Canada, with about four million prescriptions filled annually in Ontario alone. Winnipeg doctor Stephen John Coyle is returning to medical practice after pleading guilty to creating fake patients in order to acquire benzodiazepines for himself.


A former chief medical officer for a Winnipeg hospital who pleaded guilty to 14 charges of professional misconduct will be allowed to practice medicine under strict conditions.

Dr. Stephen John Coyle pleaded guilty in April before a panel of inquiry of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Manitoba after an 18-month investigation.

A formal report issued by the college says that Coyle created prescriptions for fictitious patient visits, or prescribed without justification medicine to patients, so that he could feed his own drug dependency.

Story continues below advertisement

"His dependency led to him abusing his position as a physician to divert narcotics and benzodiazepines for his own use," the college said.

The panel found that Coyle "engaged in the practice of medicine while under the influence of injectable Demerol and/or benzodiazepines while his ability to practice medicine was impaired, thereby committing acts of professional misconduct."

Coyle immigrated to Manitoba in 1978 from England, holding a variety of positions in Winnipeg and Shoal Lake. He headed the staff at Misericordia from 2004 to 2008. The college first heard of concerns about Coyle after he joined Four Rivers Broadway Clinic in Winnipeg as medical director between July 2008 and September 2010. He is currently practising under supervision at Winnipeg's Crestview Clinic.

The college ruled that Coyle exploited vulnerable people. While recognizing that Coyle was struggling with addiction and depression, the college declared that "those factors do not alter the fact that Dr. Coyle's actions were reprehensible and entirely unacceptable."

The panel of inquiry will allow Coyle to continue to practice medicine, but only under a lengthy list of conditions.

"The public good can be served by allowing a trained and educated physician, like Dr. Coyle, to practice medicine pursuant to a carefully-designed set of the conditions designed to safeguard the interests of the public," said the college.

Qualified professionals who have treated Coyle say that his dependency is in full remission, as are his symptoms of depression.

Story continues below advertisement

The college set out a list of drugs which Coyle must not take without a medical prescription, and any prescribing physician must provide a full report to the college of the medical reasons and a treatment plan. There is similarly a lengthy list of drugs which Coyle cannot prescribe.

He will be tested at least 12 times a year, and Coyle can be called in for "random body fluid monitoring" with no more than six hours' notice. He must attend weekly Physicians-at-Risk and Alcoholics/Narcotics Anonymous meetings.

Coyle will have to pay all costs of his ongoing treatment and supervision, and in addition will pay $40,000 for the cost of the inquiry.

Dr. Bill Pope, the registrar for the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Manitoba, says Coyle paid a steep price for his actions.

"He was out of practice for a full 18 months. He paid a very high fee to the College for the cost of the inquiry ... And he's had huge embarrassment by this. When you're a well known physician and things fall apart it's not easy having this plastered across the media."

Report an error
As of December 20, 2017, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles as we switch to a new provider. We are behind schedule, but we are still working hard to bring you a new commenting system as soon as possible. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to