The Quebec College of Physicians wants stronger powers to discipline doctors for sexual misconduct.

The College said it believes penalties for sexual misconduct should be toughened for all of Quebec's 46 professional orders.

Justice Minister Stephanie Vallee said she is willing to strengthen Bill 98, now before the National Assembly. Adopted in principle last month, changes can still be made to it before MNAs vote to pass it into law.         

About 385,000 Quebecers belong to a professional order whose job is not only to protect their members but to discipline them as well. They are bound by jurisprudence and feel the penalties are not strict enough.         

Most recently, Dr. Roger Hobden was suspended from practicing medicine for 15 months for sexual misconduct against a 17-year-old patient in 1996. The order also fined him $3,000.

Such relationships are forbidden by the College of Physicians' code of ethics. Many orders forbid certain types of behaviours if they pose a conflict of interest.

Members of orders can also be charged separately in the criminal courts.

 Dr. Charles Bernard, head of the College of Physicians said the orders should set a better example.

“It sends not a good message to the public and to the patient, I think, that the victim has to be reassured and those kind of crimes and sexual misconduct have to be sanctioned at the right level I think, so that's the message that we want to send to the people and to the patient,” said Bernard.