Unlawful practitioners are placing the public at risk

The College’s public protection duty includes investigating unlawful practice and enforcing the prohibition on using reserved titles. Over the past four years, the College has been successful in prosecuting unlawful practitioners and will continue efforts to eliminate unlawful practice in the province.

The College receives information about unlawful practice from various sources, including health authorities, spa operators, members of the public and “patients.” Unlawful practitioners include estheticians, spa operators, and non-registrants with foreign medical credentials who provide services such as minor surgery, Botox and dermal fillers injections, mobile ultrasound services, and mole removal. Examples of actual harm resulting from such cases include infection following basement-performed eyelid surgery and the removal of skin growths, facial deformity following the administration of Botox, and bruising.

The College has taken action against unlawful practitioners who use forged licences to dupe spa owners, “patients” and pharmaceutical companies. 

Prior to 2014, the College had not gone to court on unlawful practice matters. However, the College’s processes have been enhanced over the years. Now the College requires formal undertakings from unlawful practitioners, in-camera court applications for search and seizure orders, and it can obtain temporary and permanent injunctions and contempt orders against unlawful practitioners who breach injunctions. 

On one occasion, the Court ordered an unlawful practitioner to pay a fine and directed that the fine be used to make full restitution to the “patient” for money paid to the unlawful practitioner.

In addition to unlawful activities, the College has taken action against non-registrants who wrongfully use reserved titles such as “physician,” “surgeon” and “doctor.” Non-registrants with medical degrees are prohibited from using a name, title or description in any manner that expresses or implies that they are registrants or associated in any way with the College. 

The College’s position is that the use of a reserved title, including a name, title, or description in association with a reserved title, is misleading when there is a realistic possibility that an unsuspecting member of the public might infer, in the circumstances in which it is used, that the individual is entitled to practise medicine.

Recently, the College has started reviewing educational institutions that teach unregulated individuals to perform services that should only be provided by certain regulated health professions, and issue certificates for courses in Botox administration, for example. These institutions may be facilitating the unlawful practice of medicine. 

Registrants have an important role to play in educating patients about the risks associated with receiving services from unlawful practitioners and they can assist by encouraging patients to report such matters to the College. Patients who report unlawful practice can remain anonymous if they choose.

For more information regarding unlawful practice and actions that the College has taken, please see the Unlawful Practice page on the College website.