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B.C. doctor and chiropractor both suspended after admitting to sex with patients

cbc.ca logo cbc.ca 2023-01-06 Bethany Lindsay
Nakusp family physician Dr. Norman Lea and former Nanaimo chiropractor Gavin Maxwell are both barred from practice for two years for having sex with their patients. © Kamon_Wongnon/Shutterstock Nakusp family physician Dr. Norman Lea and former Nanaimo chiropractor Gavin Maxwell are both barred from practice for two years for having sex with their patients.

A doctor in B.C.'s West Kootenay region and a former Vancouver Island chiropractor have both been barred from practising for two years after admitting to having sex with patients.

Dr. Norman Keith Lea, a family physician based in Nakusp, had sex with a patient in his medical clinic, inside a room in the Arrow Lakes Hospital and "at other locations around the community," according to a public notice from the College of Physicians and Surgeons of B.C.

The notice says Lea "violated boundaries in the patient-physician relationship by not only entering [in] a sexual and intimate relationship with a patient, but doing so during her scheduled appointments with him in his office."

It goes on to say that the college's inquiry committee was especially concerned about Lea's actions because he works in a small rural community, which requires "an even greater degree of caution."

Meanwhile, a separate notice from the College of Chiropractors of B.C. says former Nanaimo chiropractor Gavin Maxwell has acknowledged "engaging in sexual conduct" with a patient and giving a false statement to the college when he was first confronted with the allegations.

Maxwell resigned his registration in July, but has received a reprimand and agreed not to re-apply for a licence or practise as a chiropractor in B.C. for the next two years.

'Consent of the patient is no defence'

B.C. regulations make it clear that there is no such thing as consensual sex between a registered health professional and a patient.

"Sexualized contact or behaviour of any kind is unacceptable in the patient-registrant relationship and is considered sexual misconduct," state the standards of the physicians' college.

"Given the power imbalance inherent to the patient-registrant relationship, the patient is never in a position to provide consent."

The chiropractors' college has identical rules, and confirms "consent of the patient is no defence to an allegation of sexual conduct."

According to the public notice about Lea, he and his patient exchanged "flirtatious and sexualized" messages over Facebook and WhatsApp, and met up repeatedly between August and December 2018.

The notice does not include any information about how the sexual relationship was discovered.

Lea has consented to a two-year suspension from practising medicine, effective Aug. 31, 2022. Six months of that suspension could be stayed if he meets all of the terms and conditions of his discipline. He's also subject to a formal reprimand and has to complete an educational program.

There are few details about Maxwell's misconduct in the public notice from the chiropractors' college, but it notes that he has agreed to take a course in ethics and boundaries before applying for a new licence in any jurisdiction.

According to a Facebook post from his former clinic in Nanaimo, Maxwell relocated to Calgary last summer. There is no chiropractor with that name registered to practise in Alberta.

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