Proposal to Exempt Spouses from the Definition of Sexual Abuse 

Under Ontario law, regulated health professionals are not permitted to treat their spouses unless and exemption has been granted from this law to a specific profession. Treatment by an optician of their spouse is considered sexual abuse under the Regulated Health Professions Act, and results in the mandatory revocation of the optician’s certificate of registration for a period of at least 5 years. 

Colleges may, however, make a regulation exempting the treatment of spouses from the definition of sexual abuse. This exemption would only apply to pre-existing spousal relationships (including common law). It is still considered sexual abuse to treat a romantic or sexual partner who is not a spouse, or to initiate a sexual relationship with an existing patient, or anyone who had been a patient in the last year. 

In 2021, the Patient Relations Committee of the College considered the issue and engaged in public consultations. After careful review of the committee’s analysis and the feedback received from patients and registrants during the consultation process, the Board of Directors voted in favour of seeking an exemption that would allow opticians in Ontario to treat their spouses. 

A copy of the proposed regulatory amendment can be found here

The regulation setting out this exemption must be approved by the Ontario Government. Until that time, opticians continue to be prohibited from treating their spouses. 

If the exemption is approved, the College will notify opticians about when it comes into effect, and to provide updated practice guidelines on when and in what circumstances it may be appropriate for an optician to treat their spouse. For the time being, please refer to the College’s Sexual Abuse Prevention Guidelines for more information.

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