Spouses Not Exempted From Sexual Abuse

Under the Regulated Health Professions Act, healthcare providers (including PTs) are not under any circumstance permitted to become sexually involved with patients—it is sexual abuse. In fact, the definition of sexual abuse of a patient includes touching, remarks and behaviour of a sexual nature.

Spouses are not exempt from this definition, so if a complaint about sexual abuse of a patient was made against a PT and the patient was the PT’s spouse, they could still be found guilty of sexual abuse.

The law is currently a barrier for professions who wish to allow members to treat spouses.*

In November 2013, Ontario health regulatory colleges were given the ability to make a regulation exempting members from sexual abuse charges when the patient is a spouse. Colleges that have pursued making such a regulation have done so to allow members to treat their spouses.

College standards indicate PTs should not treat family members because professional judgment may be impaired either because of personal closeness or the potential for financial gain.

Council decided to not pursue making a regulation to exempt PTs from sexual abuse when the patient is a spouse as PTs should not be treating spouses and no complaints of sexual abuse of a spouse by a PT have ever received. In other words, given PTs are not permitted to treat spouses, there is no need to remove the barrier to spousal treatment.

*NOTE: These provisions have been tested in the courts and found to have both validity and societal importance. The Courts have also suggested that incidental care would likely not make the spouse a patient.