A disgraced dentist-turned-foot doctor could be forced to leave the medical field for the second time today after a Go Public/Radio-Canada investigation revealed he was using medical implants he designed and had manufactured in a machine shop instead of the Health Canada-approved ones he was selling patients.
Pierre Dupont is going before the disciplinary committee of the College of Chiropodists of Ontario. He could face sanctions ranging from being ordered to take classes on professional conduct, to being placed under supervision, to losing his licence for life.
The Ottawa-based chiropodist became the focus of a Go Public investigation in 2016 after selling his patients Health Canada-approved implants for flat feet, then using his own experimental ones during surgery without telling them.
More than a year after getting the fake implants, many patients — including small children — are still in pain and can’t walk as they once did.
Former patient Netta Buffam paid nearly $ 8,000 in 2015 for implants approved by Health Canada, but got the fakes instead. She says she still has trouble standing and walking.
She and other former patients are travelling from the Ottawa and Montreal areas to be at the Toronto hearing.
“I keep taking deep breaths. It’s stressful not knowing what’s ahead, what to expect, knowing that he will be there — to see him for the first time after what he’s done to us all,” Buffam says. “I want to see him barred.”
No warning about troubled past
If banned from practising chiropody today, it will be the second time Dupont has been kicked out of a medical field.
Dupont used to be a dentist in Quebec but was stripped of his licence and banned for life in 2005 following the death of one of his patients following a dental surgery.
He retrained as a foot specialist and moved to Ontario.
The College of Chiropodists of Ontario knew about his troubled past when it allowed him back into a medical field but did not issue a warning to the public.
More than a dozen of Dupont’s former foot patients filed complaints with the college after learning through Go Public’s stories that they had the experimental implants put in their feet.
The college has also been criticized for taking nearly three times longer than usual to investigate those complaints; it used five extensions before deciding to send Dupont to the disciplinary committee.
Before Go Public inquiries, neither the College of Chiropodists of Ontario nor Health Canada knew about the unapproved implants.
Erika Brathwaite was the first patient of Dupont’s to contact Go Public after having a stent inserted and having trouble healing.
Her foot is so badly damaged that if she wants “a chance to return to normal or close to normal,” she says doctors have told her she requires major surgery, which includes shaving part of her heel bone, putting cadaver tendons in her leg and a six-month recovery period.
“I really thought that for a regulated profession, we were protected a lot better than we actually are. As it turns out, the college seems to not have a lot of power to be able to fulfil their mandate and protect the public,” Brathwaite says.
“Just the length of time that this has dragged on … it’s disappointing.”
College stays silent
When Go Public contacted the college and Dupont to ask about the pending disciplinary hearing, the college didn’t respond and Dupont directed us to his lawyer, who wouldn’t comment before the hearing.
“I can advise that Dr. Dupont’s motivation at all times was the well-being of his patients and everything that has been done was in an effort to assist their medical situation,” Nigel Trevethan, a partner at Vancouver law firm Harper Grey LLP, wrote in an email to CBC News in September.
Earlier this year, college registrar Felecia Smith told Go Public the college “takes its duty to protect the public interest seriously.”
After Go Public’s investigation, the college ordered Dupont to stop making and using the experimental implants, but allowed him to continue practising.
$ 15M class action
The controversial Ottawa foot doctor and his business, Ottawa Foot Practice, also could face a $ 15-million class action lawsuit.
The lawsuit, which has yet to be certified by a court, is seeking damages on behalf of the former patients. Dupont has not filed a statement of defence. The college was initially named in the class action, but earlier this year, the plaintiff and college agreed to a dismissal of the claims against it.
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