Dr. Graeme Bethune, Charged with Sexual Assault

On April 6, 2021, Dr. Graeme Hamilton Bethune was charged with sexual assault arising from incidents that occurred between 2005 and 2007. Dr. Bethune was the physician of the victim and was in a position of trust.[1]  Notably, this charge comes after an investigation by The College of Physicians & Surgeons of Nova Scotia into a sexual complaint the resulted in Dr. Bethune relinquishing his license to practice medicine.[2] The Halifax Regional Police have released very few details out of respect for the privacy of the victim. The Halifax Regional Police are encouraging any victims of sexual assault to contact them.[3]

A Victims Options when Sexually Abused By a Doctor

When a victim is sexually abused by a physician there are generally three avenues of recourse. A victim can pursue anyone of the below avenues or all three.

          1.  A Criminal Complaint

The victim can report the abuse to the police. Generally, the police will investigate the claim and then provide their findings to a prosecutor. The prosecutor will then decide whether to charge the physician or not. In a criminal matter, the charge must be proven on the standard of beyond a reasonable doubt.

           2. A Regulatory Complaint

The victim can report the doctor to the provincial regulatory board. Generally, the regulatory board will conduct its own investigation and will often have a hearing, similar to a mini trial. The regulatory board can impose sanctions such as revoking a license to practise medicine.

           3. A Civil Law Suit

The victim can also hire a personal injury lawyer to sue the doctor and other negligent parties. In this instance the lawyer is taking instructions from the victim. The purpose of the civil lawsuit is to seek compensation for the injuries that have been inflicted on the victim. In a civil lawsuit, the allegations only need to be proven on a balance of probabilities, a much lower burden then a criminal matter.

 Civil Case

Criminal Charge

Regulatory Complaint

Who pursues the case?

A lawyer takes instructions from the victim

Crown attorney

Regulatory board

What is the focus of the case

Compensating victims

Punishing wrongdoers

Upholding physician standards and ethics

What happens if the Doctor loses?

The victim is awarded Compensation

The Doctor pays fines or goes to jail

The doctor pays fines, practice is restricted, or may lose license.

What is the burden of Proof?

More likely than Not

Beyond a reasonable doubt

More likely than not


No Time Limit on Bringing Sexual Assault Claims in Nova Scotia

In 2015, Nova Scotia adopted the Limitation of Actions Act, SNS 2014, c 35 which removed any time limitation on when a lawsuit must be filed in regard to sexual abuse. This means that historical victims of sexual abuse that are now ready to come forward can initiate lawsuits despite the fact the abuse happened years or even decades previously.

Compensation in Sexual Abuse and Assault Cases

It’s beyond doubt that no amount of monetary compensation can erase the pain caused by sexual abuse and assault. But there is so much good that comes from resolving sexual assault claims successfully. The survivors can get the financial help they need to seek medical help and start rebuilding their lives. By holding your abuser or assailant accountable, you restore your dignity and encourage other people who may have endured sexual abuse to seek justice. Once you file a sexual abuse claim, you may get compensation for the following;

  • Medical expenses
  • Psychological and emotional distress
  • Lost income or wages in case you cannot go back to work
  • Mental health therapy and counseling
  • Other monetary losses such as lost job prospects and unfinished education

There are many factors to consider when determining the amount of compensation a victim of sexual assault deserves. Some of these factors include:

  • The overall impact of the sexual assault on the victim’s ability to support themselves and generate income.
  • The kind of medical treatment they have sought or they are currently undergoing as a result of the assault.
  • The unique circumstances of their case, such as family life.

Our lawyers understand that sexual abuse and assault are terrible experiences and the victims have a huge burden that they might carry for the rest of their lives. This is why we offer legal help that these victims need to successfully handle the financial burden and start rebuilding their lives. Our primary goal is to build a strong defense and fight for your rights.

Chronology of Accusation and Charges of Sexual Abuse against Dr. Graeme Bethune

  • In May 2020, The College of Physicians & Surgeons of Nova Scotia (“The College”) announced that as result of a complaint which involved professional misconduct by engaging in an inappropriate personal relationship with a vulnerable patient, that Dr. Bethune had agreed to have his license to practice medicine revoked.[4] Notably, the type of complaint is categorized as “Boundary violation, Sexual”.[5]
  • In November 2020, a victim reported the sexual abuse allegations to the Halifax Regional Police.[6]
  • On April 6, 2021, Dr. Graeme Bethune was charged with one count of sexual assault.[7]



[1] https://www.halifaxtoday.ca/police-beat/former-family-physician-charged-in-historical-sexual-assaults-3607443

[2] https://cpsns.ns.ca/complaints-investigations/disciplinary-decisions-interim-licence-sanctions/directory-of-disciplinary-decisions/

[3] https://www.halifax.ca/home/news/police-charge-man-historical-sexual-assaults

[4] https://cpsns.ns.ca/Decision/dr-graeme-bethune/

[5] https://cpsns.ns.ca/complaints-investigations/disciplinary-decisions-interim-licence-sanctions/directory-of-disciplinary-decisions/

[6] https://globalnews.ca/news/7740813/graeme-bethune-sexual-assault-charge/

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