The body that regulates doctors in Ontario is keeping secret a legal document detailing how a Mississauga surgeon erred in 22 cases until and unless a disciplinary committee first grants approval.
Kathryn Clarke, spokesperson for the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, said a Torstar News Service reporter would first have to submit a written motion asking for the agreed statement of facts in the case and the committee would then have the option of approving or denying its release.
The case in question involves general surgeon Dr. John Pariag, who was found to be guilty of professional misconduct and incompetence by the regulatory body’s disciplinary committee earlier this year.
In one case, he caused a patient’s death by botching an operation to correct a bowel obstruction.
Other bungled procedures include:
- Unnecessarily removing healthy appendixes from three patients;
- Removing a patient’s thyroid even though he had not been trained to do so during his residency or done the surgery before at the hospital in question;
- Improperly performing surgery without first addressing a patient’s high risk of bleeding problems; and
- Perforating a patient’s bowel while removing polyps.
The committee’s findings, posted on the College’s website, reveal what mistakes Pariag made, but with no details. For example, it is not revealed when or where the errors occurred.
However, the website does state that Pariag’s privileges at the Temiskaming Hospital were restricted in April 2009.
The decision to keep the details of Pariag’s conviction secret runs against the public interest the College was created to serves, says Paul Harte, a medical malpractice lawyer in Toronto.
“The reality is that the (College’s) current overly legal, convoluted process acts as a significant obstacle to access to public information,” Harte said.
A written copy of the statement of facts shouldn’t be difficult to obtain, Harte says, because it is normally read aloud during the public hearing.
The statement contains “information that would clearly be important to members of the public and in particular patients of Dr. Pariag,” he said.
In the meantime, Pariag continues to consult patients as a surgeon out of the Multi-Specialty Walk-In Clinic on Queensway West in Mississauga.
Pending a final penalty decision, Pariag faces restrictions in his duties. He cannot perform surgery in a hospital, for example, but he can serve as a surgical assistant.
Confronted outside the clinic Thursday, Pariag refused to comment on the committee’s incompetence decision.
Pariag graduated from the University of the West Indies in 1978 and received postgraduate training at McMaster University between 2004 and 2006. He’s been registered in Ontario as a private practice general surgeon since 2007.
He will appear before the College for the continuation of a penalty hearing on Oct. 29 and could lose his licence.
The College’s discipline committee made findings of professional misconduct and incompetence based on the agreed statement of facts, which was filed as an exhibit during a disciplinary hearing for Pariag on March 22.
Clarke explained that the discipline committee’s “rules of procedure” allow for discretion in releasing such documents to the public.
The rules state that the committee “must balance the societal value of transparency in the hearing process with other society values, like the right of individuals to privacy and confidentiality.”
Pariag’s lawyer and the lawyer for the College also get a say on whether such documents are released and decisions are made without oral hearings.
Personal health information is often contained in such documents, but in order to protect patients’ identities, initials are used instead of full names.