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Absurd Law Leads to Absurd Ruling for Dental Hygienist

Division Court upholds discipline committee’s decision to strip dental hygienist of license to practice for treating spouse

In what can only be described as an absurd outcome, the Ontario Divisional Court, an appellate level court, has upheld the harsh punishment for Alexandru Tanase. What appears to be a slavish adherence to rules that lead to untenable outcomes, the court expressed its disapproval of its own ruling but stopped short of taking a bold step to clear Mr. Tanase’s name.

In the decision the court said, “there is no other case of any dental hygienist anywhere in Canada who has been found guilty of sexual abuse for treating his wife”. Think about that, no other province or territory would intrude on the private lives of spouses and make a finding of sexual abuse.

The absurdity of the decision is even apparent from the court’s own remarks that the outcome is unfair given that dentists can treat their spouse, but hygienists cannot.

Ontario has a zero-tolerance policy to protect patients from exploitation; that is, Ontario’s policy apparently protects patients of certain professions, i.e. hygienists, but not from dentists. 

Tanase appealed to the Divisional Court on the basis the law violated his constitutional rights. Despite the court’s opinion that Tanase posed no danger to the public, and its sympathy for the hygienist, the court ruled the current ban on treating spouses is constitutional, as is the mandatory punishment for violating the ban.

Perhaps another position could have been an equitable argument the rule leads to unfair outcomes across the country only depending on which province you practice. It’s not the action of treating the spouse that matters, only your province of practice. An argument to be tried another day. Here’s hoping this makes its way to the Supreme Court of Canada.