A hearing examining the alleged misconduct of a Cape Breton doctor became tense in its first day as one of the complainants said repeatedly she had nothing to gain by coming forward.
The accusations against Dr. Manivasan Moodley are being heard in front of a five-person panel by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Nova Scotia in Bedford.
Moodley, a Sydney-based obstetrician, was the focus of media attention when a January rally was held in support of him with respect to licensing issues he faced. The rally was held on the same day allegations from two female patients regarding inappropriate touching and incompetence became public.
The identities of the complainants are being protected by a publication ban, so they’re being referred to as A.B. and C.D.
A.B. was the first to testify Monday. The woman in her 30s was referred to Moodley in 2017 and met him for her appointment on July 13, 2017.
‘I was shocked’
She said as soon as she arrived, Moodley greeted her and questioned why a young, beautiful woman would be one of his patients.
What followed, she said, was an increasingly uncomfortable hour-long appointment.
As he reviewed her medical history, she said he asked if she had anal sex, if she used sex toys, what kind of orgasms she was having and how often she had sex with her husband. She said he asked if she knew she could be stimulated by rubbing her nipples. She said he asked if she was “tight.”
A.B. told the panel she’s had various medical appointments over the years and has met with several specialists.
“That’s street slang,” A.B said. “Not a term a doctor should be using. I was shocked.”
She said Moodley then performed an ultrasound. She said everything about that procedure was similar to her previous exams, until he commented that her tattoos on her lower hips were very nice.
“No one has ever commented on anything about my body, ever,” she said.
A.B. then had a pap test. She said the doctor told her he was going to put lubricant on something, but she had never heard the word before and assumed it was a piece of equipment. Instead, he used his fingers to rub lubricant directly on her vagina.
“I was disgusted. I’ve had lots of pap tests,” she said. “I’ve never had anyone physically touch me with their hands … I was very uncomfortable. Angry.”
Texting a colleague
When questioned by Moodley’s lawyer, A.B. said the doctor did not massage her, but again said he used his gloved fingers to put the lubricant on her.
At one point during the appointment, she texted a colleague who had also seen Moodley, asking if she found him creepy. The other patient laughed it off and said no.
A.B. left the appointment, spoke to Moodley’s assistant about booking a follow-up appointment and left.
When asked why she didn’t speak up or show emotion at that time, she said was probably in shock, and noted she felt violated and disrespected.
“You’re in with a doctor, you put your trust in them,” she said.
Throughout A.B.’s testimony, Moodley sat nearby with his wife, taking notes. Neither showed emotion.
His lawyer, Robin Cook, focused on two key points in her testimony.
A.B. confirmed that at that time, they were investigating if she had a possible prolapse.
“Are you aware that one of the symptoms of prolapse is the inability to have orgasms?” asked Cook.
The patient did not know that. Cook then asked if she had possibly misinterpreted Moodley’s line of questioning.
She said if that was the case, she takes offence to the language he used and repeated that she did not consent to him touching her.
Questions over previous interview
Cook also focused on apparent inconsistencies between her testimony Monday and an interview she gave the college two years ago. He questioned if the appointment was actually much shorter than an hour. He referred to a time she stated during the previous interview. She said she was mixed up and had accidentally said the time of her college interview, instead of the time of her appointment.
When questioned again about it, A.B. took aim at the process, saying she had to tell strangers about intimate details of her life.
“I was rattled about going into a room full of men and talking about things I’m very uncomfortable talking about,” she said.
The college has said the process is flawed, and has since announced significant changes to how patients can report sexual misconduct.
A.B. was also asked if she knew the other complainant. She said she does not. She was asked if her complaint was rooted in racism, or if it was a way to eventually get access to a white, female specialist. A.B. firmly rejected those accusations, saying the process has taken a great toll on her family.
Since the public rally, she said she’s had anxiety attacks and frequently thought about quitting the process.
Testimony from husband
A.B.’s husband was then asked to testify. The man was clearly emotional and nervous about speaking before the panel. At times, his exchange with Cook was hostile, with the two men repeatedly butting heads, and the husband accusing Cook of trying to twist his words.
He talked about A. B.’s excitement when she learned she would see a specialist about her ongoing condition. He said she didn’t care who it was: “She was just so excited it’s a doctor.”
He said he knew something was wrong as soon as he heard the tone of his wife’s voice after the appointment. And in the 2½ years since the alleged incident, he said her story hasn’t changed.
“In my opinion, it was an abuse of power,” he said.
Hearing resumes Tuesday
The hearing is not like a court, where a decision is made beyond a reasonable doubt. Instead, the panel will weigh the balance of probabilities.
The second complainant is expected to testify Tuesday, while Moodley’s defence begins on Wednesday.
A decision will not be made any time soon. One witness was not available this week, so the hearing will be put over until the end of March when the panel will finish hearing testimony.