WATERLOO — A Waterloo chiropractor who treated his girlfriend — then referred her unpaid bills to a collection agency after they broke up — has been stripped of his licence for having sex with a patient.

Dr. Vincent Leering won’t be able to practice for at least five years after the Ontario Court of Appeal ruled he’d broken a zero-tolerance policy prohibiting health care professionals from having sex with patients.

Leering met the unidentified woman in Dec. 2004, and they moved in together in March 2005. The following month, the woman switched chiropractors and Leering began giving her regular treatments.

Leering billed the woman, but she never paid him directly. Instead, he’d mark the bills as paid and she’d submit them to her insurer, passing along the reimbursement to Leering.

When they broke up in Oct. 2005, Leering tried to collect a balance owing of $567 from her. She refused, and he sent the account to a collection agency.

She, in turn, complained to the College of Chiropractors of Ontario, which ended up charging Leering with sexual abuse.

A college discipline committee originally revoked Leering’s licence, a move that was overturned by the Divisional Court. The college appealed that decision, and, in a ruling issued Tuesday, the Court of Appeal upheld the college’s original findings.

In 1994, a zero-tolerance policy concerning sex with patients came into effect in Ontario, requiring a mandatory licence revocation.

Critics have argued exceptions should be made in cases where a doctor is treating a spouse – or, as in Leering’s case, where the sexual relationship predates the professional one.

“The (discipline committee) recognized that it may appear that the strict and significant mandatory penalty that follows from a conviction for professional misconduct by sexual abuse is harsh and arguably unjust in cases where there is a consensual sexual relationship and no exploitation by the health care professional,” stated the Court of Appeal ruling.

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