Passed on October 8, 2020, Ontario Regulation 566/20 (Spousal Exemption Regulation) allows optometrists to treat their spouses without the treatment automatically constituting sexual abuse. The exemption benefits patients (spouses) who are treated under special circumstances, including those living in remote parts of Ontario with limited access to optometric care.
A “spouse” is defined by Ontario Regulation 566/20 specifically as a) a person whom the optometrist is married to, or b) a person who has lived with the optometrists in a conjugal relationship outside of marriage continuously for at least three years.
While the regulation is supported by the College of Optometrists of Ontario, particularly under special or unique circumstances, as a general rule the College does not recommend that optometrists treat their spouses. Personal relationships are complex; incorporating them into professional care can lead to problematic and unforeseen situations. This is especially true in cases of chronic care that can last over years or decades. In cases where a personal relationship ends, optometrists may find themselves in complicated situations that force them to balance the ethics of patient care against the complexities of personal history.
Therefore, while the treatment of spouses in now permitted under this regulation, it is not generally recommended by the College of Optometrists of Ontario.
Contact Chad Andrews, Director of Research and Policy with any questions.