College investigates complaint against doctor in Klassen case

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Saskatchewan is conducting a disciplinary investigation of the doctor whose medical reports were used to bolster the malicious prosecution of Richard Klassen and 11 others.

Klassen said this week the college, which licenses doctors, sent him a copy of a letter it sent to Dr. Joel Yelland, the president of the Saskatchewan Medical Association. The letter informs Yelland of Klassen’s February complaint against him for unprofessional conduct.

“They’re taking it seriously. I’m happy,” Klassen said Wednesday.

Klassen and 11 extended family members won the malicious prosecution lawsuit against Saskatoon police Supt. Brian Dueck, Crown prosecutor Matt Miazga and social worker Carol Bunko-Ruys, following a lengthy trial last year.

All plaintiffs had been charged, tried and acquitted in the 1990s, on charges of committing heinous sexual abuses against three foster children. Years later the children admitted they had invented the stories. The children were actually sexually abused by their birth parents and the girls by their brother.

In his December 2003 decision, Justice George Baynton outlined the role of Yelland, a family physician who often performed examinations of children at the request of social workers investigating possible cases of sexual and physical abuse.

Yelland examined the children, Michael, 10, and his twin sisters, Michelle and Kathy Ross, 8, in 1990 and again in 1991.

The college informed Yelland in a March 4 letter that the complaint against him includes six allegations arising out of Baynton’s decision.

It alleges Yelland testified at a preliminary hearing that there was no more evidence of sexual abuse in 1991 than there had been in 1990, despite substantial indication of increased symptoms between the two examinations.

It alleges Yelland based his medical reports more on the subjective history told to him than on his own professional, objective observations gleaned from his examinations of the children.

It alleges that in his 1991 medical reports, Yelland made statements of fact based solely on unsubstantiated allegations of the children, rather than on his physical examinations.

He ignored the most feasible source of abuse of the girls, it alleges.

As well, Yelland’s role in establishing the Saskatoon sexual abuse of children protocol, and the volume of patient referrals he received from Social Services, clouded his professional judgment and blinded him to any other conclusion than one that was consistent with the information given by the children, the letter states.

Yelland’s belief in the guilt of the accused was irrational, considering it was based on information provided by children who had named many other people besides them, the complaint alleges.

It also alleges Yelland provided opinions without reviewing the children’s medical histories, which would have disclosed information which could have altered his opinion.

“As interpreted by the courts, this means the physician must have done something that is such a departure from acceptable medical practice that no reasonable physician would have done (what he did),” the letter states.

It suggested Yelland contact the Canadian Medical Protective Association, which might be able to provide him with legal counsel.

Yelland declined to comment when contacted Wednesday.

College registrar Dr. Dennis Kendal said he cannot discuss on-going disciplinary matters but did outline how the process works.

The college is obligated to respond to every complaint with an informal investigation, in which administration gathers facts and recommends to the college council or its executive committee whether the complaint merits a formal investigation.

If so, a formal investigation is conducted by a special preliminary inquiry committee, which reports to the council with an opinion on whether there has been unprofessional conduct.

The entire governing council decides whether to lay a formal charge under the Medical Professions Act. If so, a standing discipline committee hears the evidence and decides if the charge is proven.

If it is, the matter returns to the entire governing council, which sets a penalty.

The mildest penalty for professional misconduct is a formal reprimand that remains on the doctor’s record for life.

Penalties increase through fines and periods of suspension up to revoking of the physician’s licence, Kendal said.

The entire process can take many months.

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