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These guidelines are intended to deal with harassment of any nature, sexual or otherwise involving postgraduate medical trainees.  The process is complainant driven, such that the complainant will be consulted along each step of the way.  The sexual harassment issues will be dealt with in accordance to the McMaster University Policy & Procedures on Sexual Harassment.

Relationship With Other Agencies

If the resident has reported the incident to an outside institution with a collective agreement in place, (eg. the respondent may be affiliated with another hospital, agency, etc.) the collective agreement will supersede these guidelines and, as well, the University Policy and Procedures on Sexual Harassment. 

  • If the incident is patient related it must be reported to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario and dealt with in accordance to CPSO policy.
  • Consideration of the Regulated Health Professions Act, including the Medicine Act, Nursing Act, Midwifery Act, etc.
  • No one shall be compelled to proceed with a complaint.
  • Intimidation and discrimination will not be tolerated.
  • Reprisal of the complainant for involvement in this process will not be tolerated.
  • Confidentiality of the identity of the complainant and the respondent will be protected.

Reporting Mechanisms

Informal Complaint (ie. not written)

If a resident has experienced problems with harassment, sexual or otherwise, s/he should choose to deal with the issue in a way that s/he feels most comfortable.

The following are some resources/options available to deal with these types of problems. Again, the complaint is informal, ie. unwritten; however, it is preferred that these discussions include the Faculty of Health Sciences Liaison, where appropriate. Even if discussions do not include the Faculty of Health Sciences Liaison, if would be preferred if the incident was reported to him/her, without naming the individuals involved; however, reporting will be left to the discretion of the complainant.

  • Discuss with the individual who is involved in the incident.
  • Discuss options with the Clinical Supervisor and/or Programme Director and/or Assistant Dean, Postgraduate Education. If the incident falls within the University definition of Sexual Harassment, the Sexual Harassment Officer and/or Faculty of Health Sciences Liaison will be consulted. The complainant and respondent will not be identified.
  • Seek advice through the Professional Association of Interns and Residents of Ontario.
  • Discuss with a friend or family physician.
  • If the incident is a sexual harassment issue, discuss options with the Sexual Harassment Officer and/or Faculty of Health Sciences Liaison.

Informal Written Complaint

  • When a written/verbal complaint is received in the Postgraduate Education, the Assistant Dean, Postgraduate Education will formally seek appropriate counsel eg. Sexual Harassment Officer of Faculty Liaison, in consultation with the Resident’s Programme Director.

The complaint should be made in a timely fashion, eg. no later than 12 months from the date of the harassment.

  • The complaint should include:
    • Dates
    • names of individuals involved
    • Full description of the incident 
  • The respondent will be notified that a complaint has been filed with the Postgraduate Education Office.
  • With the permission of the complainant and the respondent a meeting will be scheduled with the Assistant Dean, Postgraduate Education and/or Programme Director and/or Clinical Supervisor and appropriate University counsel eg. Sexual Harassment Officer. The complainant and/or respondent may be invited to meet separately with these individuals. Other individuals may be contacted to substantiate information. The group will arrive at a negotiated process. However, the group may reach the conclusion that no resolution is possible. Both the complainant and respondent will be informed, in writing, within 5 working days of that determination.
  • If the complainant and/or the respondent is not satisfied with the decision of the group, s/he may request, in writing, a formal hearing. This request will be forwarded to the Board of Governors.
  • The procedures for formal hearings are detailed in the McMaster University Policy and Procedures on Sexual Harassment.

Prevention & Avoidance of Sexual Misconduct

  1. Avoid any behaviour, gestures or expressions that may be seductive or sexually demeaning to a patient. 
  2. Show sensitivity and respect for the patient's privacy and comfort at all times: - do not watch a patient dress or undress - provide privacy and appropriate covers and gowns. 
  3. Obtain permission to do intimate examinations, offer explanations as to the necessity of the examination and answer or anticipate questions concerning the examination. 
  4. Use gloves when examining genitals. 
  5. Do not make sexualized comments about a patient's body or clothing. 
  6. Do not make sexualized or sexually demeaning comments to a patient.
  7. Do not criticize a patient's sexual preference. 
  8. Do not ask or make comments about potential sexual performance except where the examination or consultation is pertinent to the issue of sexual function or dysfunction. 
  9. Do not ask details of sexual history or sexual likes/dislikes unless related to the purpose of the consultation or examination. 
  10. Do not request a date with a patient. 
  11. Do not kiss a patient. Do offer appropriate supportive contact when warranted. 
  12. Do not engage in any contact that is sexual (from touching to intercourse). 
  13. Do not talk about your own sexual preferences, fantasies, problems, activities or performance. 
  14. Learn to detect and deflect seductive patients and to control the therapeutic setting. 
  15. Maintain good records which indicate the necessity for intimate examinations or questions of a sexual nature as well as the pertinent positive or negative clinical findings. 
  16. Patients have the right to a third party present during internal/intimate examinations if they wish, with the exception of life threatening emergencies. In some cases, the physician will be able to provide this third party. In cases where the physician is unable to provide such a person, patients should be informed that they may bring a person of their choosing with them. In non-emergency situations, physicians have the right to insist that a third party be present during internal/intimate examinations, and to refuse to conduct this examination if the patient refuses consent for a third party to be in the room.

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