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Royal College of Dental Surgeons launches investigation into Christy Natsis

Andrew Seymour - Postmedia Network

Pembroke dentist Dr. Christy Natsis leaves the Elgin Street courthouse in Ottawa through a side door Friday, May 29, 2015 after she was convicted of impaired and dangerous driving, both causing death, in the March 2011 crash that killed Bryan Casey.

Pembroke dentist Dr. Christy Natsis leaves the Elgin Street courthouse in Ottawa through a side door Friday, May 29, 2015 after she was convicted of impaired and dangerous driving, both causing death, in the March 2011 crash that killed Bryan Casey.

Prominent Pembroke dentist Christy Natsis could have her dental licence revoked following convictions for impaired and dangerous driving causing death, Ontario’s Royal College of Dental Surgeons said Tuesday.

“Any criminal conviction, even unrelated to the practice of dentistry, is considered to be an act of professional misconduct,” said Irwin Fefergard, registrar for the governing body that regulates dentists in Ontario. “Before the end of the day, I will order an investigation.”

Fefergrad said an investigation is required to gather the material needed for a disciplinary hearing where Natsis could potentially face disciplinary sanctions ranging from having her right to practise dentistry suspended for up to five years or her license revoked entirely.

Natsis, 50, was found guilty last week of impaired and dangerous driving causing the death of father of three Bryan Casey in a head-on crash on Highway 17 near Arnprior on March 31, 2011. The guilty verdict followed a marathon trial that heard evidence that Natsis backed into a parked car after ordering two glasses of wine at a Kanata bar before swerving and speeding down the highway.

Breath samples later showed Natsis’s blood alcohol level was nearly 2 1/2 times the legal limit to drive, but that evidence was excluded by a judge because the OPP violated Natsis’s rights to a lawyer.

The status of her dentistry license might be the least of her worries right now: typically, convictions for impaired driving causing death carry prison sentences of between two and five years.

Fefergrad said a dentist convicted of impaired driving causing death would raise serious concerns for members of the disciplinary committee. The college has dealt with members who have been convicted of crimes before, Fefergrad added, “but nothing of that magnitude.”

“Questions would come up about judgment, about impairment, about possible substance abuse. There’s a whole ethical consideration,” said Fefergrad. It doesn’t matter whether the criminal offence is related to their dental practise, he added.

“Our panel won’t silo out a criminal conviction from the practise of dentistry per se. They won’t say, ‘It has nothing to do with the practise of dentistry, so what? This person killed somebody while drunk, (but) it didn’t happen between 9 and 5 during office hours, so who cares?’ They will not do that,” said Fefergrad.

Fefergrad said there are no limitations on Natsis’s continuing to practice dentistry until the completion of the investigation and a referral to a disciplinary committee. An interim suspension could be ordered pending a disciplinary hearing, but that rarely happens, Fefergrad said.

Natsis’s lawyer, Michael Edelson, said Tuesday his client intends to continue operating her dental practice pending her sentencing. No date has been set for a sentencing hearing, although it is expected to take eight to 12 weeks before a pre-sentence report outlining Natsis’s personal circumstances and background is prepared for the court.

Edelson said Natsis has yet to decide whether she will appeal the verdict. An appeal typically isn’t filed until after sentencing. Natsis would have 30 days to file any appeal, and would likely be released on bail pending an appeal court ruling.

Edelson declined to comment on the judge’s findings.

If Natsis’s licence to practise is revoked, she would not be eligible to apply for reinstatement for a year or more, Fefergrad said. However, Fefergrad said he is unaware of any case where a member has had his or her license revoked and been allowed to return to practise.

“The facts are, somebody got killed because someone was driving while impaired,” said Fefergrad. “That would have a huge influence on what the committee would do.”

aseymour@ottawacitizen.com

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