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

UPDATED: Interior Health to add 495 long-term seniors care beds

Nelson, Kelowna, Kamloops, Vernon and Penticton to receive new facilities

Provincial COVID-19 data can now be used for B.C. to prepare for a second wave

In the past week, B.C. has seen a slight spike in daily test-positive case counts

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

Sunflower Highway, art initiative to connect Fraser Valley, Thompson-Nicola and Okanagan

Sunflowers made out of reclaimed materials will be installed on public art trails

Residents warned to stay away from flooded Cache Creek park

Water might look shallow, but is several feet deep in places

B.C. records 62 new COVID-19 cases, two deaths since Friday

Province has just over 200 active cases

Hotel rooms for B.C. homeless too hasty, NDP government told

Businesses forced out, but crime goes down, minister says

Wage subsidy will be extended until December amid post-COVID reopening: Trudeau

Trudeau said the extension will ‘give greater certainty and support to businesses’

B.C. government prepares for COVID-19 economic recovery efforts

New measures after July consultation, Carole James says

Tree planters get help with COVID-19 protective measures

Ottawa funds extra transportation, sanitizing for crews

Trudeau apologizes for not recusing himself from WE decision

He says his and his family’s longtime involvement with the WE organization should have kept him out of the discussions

Beverly Hills 90210 star’s family selling Vancouver Island Beach Resort

You can own Jason Priestley’s Terrace Beach Resort in Ucluelet for less than $5 million

Islanders want BC Ferries to follow order that lets residents board before tourists

For ferry-dependent communities, ferries are often the sole practical lifeline to work, school or medical appointments.

Most Read