Canada – CBC News: B.C. psychiatrist resigns licence after patient complains of abuse during psychedelic therapy study

A B.C. psychiatrist has permanently relinquished her medical licence in response to a complaint about her treatment of a PTSD patient taking part in a clinical trial for MDMA-assisted psychotherapy, CBC News has learned.

Donna Dryer of Cortes Island irrevocably resigned her registration on Aug. 1 and received a formal reprimand after admitting to unprofessional conduct with the female patient, according to a letter from the College of Physicians and Surgeons of B.C. (CPSBC) to the patient.

The disciplinary action has not yet been made public, but the letter says Dryer’s unprofessional conduct includes conflict of interest, boundary violations and continuing the therapeutic relationship when Dryer knew her husband and research partner Richard Yensen was having sex with the patient.

The clinical trial’s sponsor, the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), has characterized Yensen’s actions as sexual abuse. The patient filed a sexual assault complaint with police, and in 2022, Quadra Island RCMP confirmed that they recommended unspecified criminal charges, but said Crown prosecutors did not approve them.

Videos taken during the patient’s 2015 treatment sessions in the clinical trial show Dryer and Yensen cuddling, spooning, blindfolding and pinning down the clearly distressed woman. At one point, Yensen suggests she “lie down and spread your legs;” at another, he lies on top of her as she moans in anguish.

CBC has agreed not to name the patient because of the sensitive nature of the complaint, but she has asked the Health Professions Review Board to review the college’s handling of the case.

The patient said she strongly objects to the wording in the college’s reprimand, which states that Yensen “engaged in sexual relations” with her.

“There is no such thing as consent between a patient and a therapist,” the patient told CBC in an email.

“Framing sexual assault as a ‘sexual relationship’ advances victim blame and implies consent in a context where consent is impossible.”

Yensen has not denied having sex with the patient but asserts that it was consensual.

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