Ontario dental hygienist found guilty of sexual abuse after treating his wife

Alexandru Tanase lost licence even though patient was his spouse and the sex consensual

A dental hygienist stripped of his licence as a sexual abuser because he treated his wife has lost his bid to have the punishment overturned.

Ontario’s Divisional Court decision upholding the “harsh” punishment for Alexandru Tanase comes even though regulators have proposed allowing hygienists to treat spouses as dentists may do.

“There is no other case of any dental hygienist anywhere in Canada who has been found guilty of sexual abuse for treating his wife,” the court said in its ruling. “It is indeed unfortunate that the (discipline committee) elected to proceed with the complaint.”

A disciplinary hearing arose after a complaint to the College of Dental Hygienists of Ontario from a colleague, who had spotted a June 2016 Facebook post from Tanase’s grateful wife, identified as S.M., about the care he had provided her.

Evidence before the discipline committee was that S.M. feared dental treatment and had had no care for several years when she became platonic friends with Tanase in 2012. He soon provided her with free in-office treatment.

In mid-2014, court records show, they became romantically involved and he stopped treating her because of the blanket ban on sexual relations between health-care professionals and their patients. The province enacted the zero-tolerance policy in 1993 to protect patients from exploitation. Consent is irrelevant.

While working at a clinic in Guelph, Ont., a colleague told Tanase that dental hygienists were allowed to treat their spouses. In fact, the college approved a spousal exemption in September 2015 but the legislature never adopted the rule — as it has done for dentists.

Based on his erroneous understanding of the law, Tanase began again treating his otherwise treatment-averse fiancee, and continued doing so after they married in early 2016.

The discipline committee ruled it had no choice but to find Tanase had violated the ban on sexual relations with a patient — even though the patient was his spouse and the sex consensual — and therefore subject to mandatory licence revocation.

“You have paid a heavy price,” the committee said. “We sincerely hope to see you again as an active member of the dental hygiene profession.”

READ MORE: Stage 4 cancer patient accuses Chilliwack doctor of missing diagnosis

Tanase appealed to the courts, arguing the law violated his constitutional rights.

In its ruling, the Divisional Court panel said Tanase posed no danger to the public, and expressed sympathy for the couple given that he cannot practise for at least five years.

The panel noted a previous case in which the college took no action against a female hygienist who treated her husband in light of their pre-existing spousal relationship and questioned why the Tanase complaint had gone forward. The court also said it seemed unfair that dentists can treat their spouses but hygienists can’t.

Nevertheless, the panel ruled the licence revocation as a “sexual abuser” and “stigma” of having details of his discipline posted on the college’s public website were constitutional and did not amount to cruel or unusual punishment. Current law and previous legal decisions upholding the validity of the sex ban and mandatory punishment for a violation had tied its hands, the court said.

“Unless and until the Ontario government approves the regulation put forward by the College of Dental Hygienists to enact a spousal exemption, the mandatory revocation and ancillary relief imposed by the discipline committee as they pertain to spouses must be upheld,” the panel said.

Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press

READ MORE: Salmon Arm dental hygienist joins in Gift From the Heart Day

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Four air ambulance flights out of Terrace delayed or cancelled

Pandemic precautions caused nighttime closure of service station providing weather data to pilots

Skeena Resources, Tahltan prez excited by purchase of Eskay Creek

Skeena gets full control of mine, Barrick gets 12 per cent of Skeena and a one per cent royalty

VIA Rail lays off 1,000 unionized workers across the country

Northern B.C. route Jasper to Prince George to Prince Rupert is not affected by VIA Rail layoffs

Overall house sales drop in the northwest

COVID-19 pandemic slowed market activity

B.C. orders Coastal GasLink to stop pipeline construction near protected wetlands

The 670-kilometre pipeline is planned to transport natural gas from northeast B.C. to Kitimat

B.C. sees 25 new COVID-19 cases, community exposure tracked

One death, outbreaks remain in two long-term care facilities

B.C. man prepares to be first to receive double-hand transplant in Canada

After the surgery, transplant patients face a long recovery

Grocers appear before MPs to explain decision to cut pandemic pay

Executives from three of Canada’s largest grocery chains have defended their decision to end temporary wage increases

Northern B.C. First Nations call for reversal of grizzly bear hunting ban

Growing grizzly populations have led to fewer ungulates and increased fear of attacks says Chad Day

RCMP ‘disappointed’ by talk that race a factor in quiet Rideau Hall arrest

Corey Hurren, who is from Manitoba, is facing 22 charges

NHL’s Canadian hubs offer little economic benefit, but morale boost is valuable: experts

Games are slated to start Aug. 1 with six Canadian teams qualifying for the 24-team resumption of play

‘Made in the Cowichan Valley’ coming to a wine bottle near you

Cowichan Valley has the honour of being the first sub-GI outside of the Okanagan

VIDEO: Vancouver Island cat missing 18 months reunited with family

Blue the cat found at Victoria museum 17 kilometres from home

VIDEO: Alberta man rescues baby eagle believed to be drowning in East Kootenay lake

Brett Bacon was boating on a lake in Windermere when he spotted the baby eagle struggling in the water

Most Read