Retirement Rather than Revocation

There have been a number of cases recently where regulators have been criticized for allowing practitioners to retire or resign rather than face a discipline hearing into serious allegations, such as sexual abuse or incompetence. In British Columbia, the government is consulting on a number of reforms to the health professions legislation, including a proposed reform to prohibit the College from negotiating agreements with practitioners late in the discipline process.

Legally speaking, it is appropriate for regulators to consider alternatives to a formal discipline hearing where the public will be protected. In fact, the public could be better protected by the retirement of a practitioner, especially if it is permanent, than by the uncertain outcome of a contested discipline hearing where even the most severe outcome is not permanent. Regulators often cannot articulate their concerns about the weaknesses of the evidence as a basis for accepting the retirement option.

However, in the court of public opinion, such dispositions may not be acceptable. In making these decisions regulators might wish to consider the following factors:

  • The degree to which the alleged conduct is disturbing.
  • The views of the complaint(s) even though they are not parties to the proceedings.
  • The transparency of the outcome (will it be both public and shown on the public register?).
  • The extent to which the alleged conduct requires condemnation as well as cessation.
  • The extent to which the regulator can publicly articulate the reasons for the resolution, for example, at a public hearing where the allegations are withdrawn or adjourned indefinitely.

The public interest in these matters is multi-layered.

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