Release: BC Court of Appeal to decide how healthcare governing bodies can protect the safety of women

VANCOUVER – Today, West Coast LEAF will be in BC Court of Appeal as an intervenor in College of Massage Therapists of BC v Scott. The case considers when and how the governing bodies of healthcare professions must act to protect the public in response to a complaint of sexual misconduct against a healthcare practitioner.

The case involves an allegation that a massage therapist committed sexual misconduct while treating a female patient. The College of Massage Therapists of BC determined that the complaint identified a risk to public safety, so it placed temporary restrictions on the massage therapist’s practice pending a full determination of the complaint. The Supreme Court of BC later set aside the temporary restrictions, finding that it was unreasonable to find a risk to the public based only on the complainant’s report of what happened. The College has now appealed the decision to the BC Court of Appeal.

“This case may determine when and how the governing bodies of healthcare professions can act to protect the public when there is a risk to public safety,” said Kendra Milne, Director of Law Reform with West Coast LEAF. “The ability to take action to protect the safety of patients is crucial to ensure that all patients, and particularly women in cases of alleged sexual misconduct, have access to safe healthcare.”

West Coast LEAF is intervening in the case to argue that allegations of sexual misconduct are serious and require urgent action in order to protect the public while a complaint is being fully assessed. In addition, when determining whether there is a risk to public safety in a given case, decision-makers must not rely on discriminatory myths and stereotypes about women.

“Because of the nature of healthcare treatment, complaints of sexual misconduct in a healthcare setting will almost always be a case of one person’s word against another’s, and that reality cannot undermine the ability of regulatory colleges to take action to protect the public,” noted Milne. “Healthcare practitioners hold a position of power and trust, especially massage therapists who often treat patients in an undressed and vulnerable state. Women must be able to access safe healthcare treatment and, if there is a potential safety risk, the College must be able to act to meaningfully protect them.”

The hearing will begin on Monday, January 4, at 10 a.m.

Read more about the case.