The psychiatrist pleaded guilty on Tuesday to conduct that would be regarded as disgraceful, dishonourable or unprofessional, in that he began a relationship with Patient A about a month after he stopped being her psychiatrist in 2015.
The woman had been experiencing stress at work as well as marital difficulties, and was seeing Ghabbour for anxiety and depression. She began displaying romantic feelings for him in sessions in early 2015, which he testified he resisted.
Participating in social networking and other similar Internet opportunities can support physicians’ personal expression, enable individual physicians to have a professional presence online, foster collegiality and camaraderie within the profession, provide opportunity to widely disseminate public health messages and other health communication.
Social networks, blogs, and other forms of communication online also create new challenges to the patient-physician relationship.
Physicians should weigh a number of considerations when maintaining a presence online: (a) Physicians should be cognizant of standards of patient privacy and confidentiality that must be maintained in all environments, including online, and must refrain from posting identifiable patient information online.
(b) When using the Internet for social networking, physicians should use privacy settings to safeguard personal information and content to the extent possible, but should realize that privacy settings are not absolute and that once on the Internet, content is likely there permanently.
Widner said this would allow the panel to make sure that Ghabbour has received proper therapy for his boundary violation with Patient A.
Ghabbour’s lawyer, Paul-Erik Veel, argued for a nine to 12-month suspension along with a condition that Ghabbour seek therapy, saying it’s important to keep in mind that Ghabbour pleaded guilty, that this was an isolated incident for someone with no prior discipline history, and that Ghabbour has suffered from depression. Julian Gojer also testified that Ghabbour is at a low risk to reoffend, but admitted on the stand that there would be “enormous work” involved in Ghabbour’s therapy because he now lives with Patient A.After another session, she hugged him, and at one point he noted in his charts that the patient was “idealizing him and is seeking a real/physical bond with him,” says the agreed statement of facts.He said he made attempts to make clear to her that he was her psychiatrist. In one of their last sessions, Patient A kissed him on the mouth, Ghabbour testified.If the behavior significantly violates professional norms and the individual does not take appropriate action to resolve the situation, the physician should report the matter to appropriate authorities.(f) Physicians must recognize that actions online and content posted may negatively affect their reputations among patients and colleagues, may have consequences for their medical careers (particularly for physicians-in-training and medical students), and can undermine public trust in the medical profession.She also attended Ghabbour’s two-day discipline hearing.