Toronto doctor suspended after texting medical information to patient’s ex-husband, daughter

A Toronto doctor has been barred from practicing until August after she was found to have sent private medical information to a patient’s former spouse, friends, and daughter over text and Facebook Messenger.

Dr. Elika Safar Zadeh, an endocrinologist at North York General Hospital, has been suspended from practicing for five months, from March 20 to August 20, after admitting to engaging in professional misconduct by sharing a patient’s medical records on multiple occasions with their family and friends, a March finding published by the Ontario Physicians and Surgeons Discipline Tribunal (OPSDT) shows.

The ruling cites an incident in which Safar Zadeh admitted she engaged in professional misconduct after sharing a patient’s medical records three times – in January and April 2019 – with their family and friends.

The ruling says the patient involved, a woman referred to as Patient A, was treated for the “first and only time” by Safar Zadeh in 2015. After being admitted, Patient A received mental health care, it said.

Four years later, in 2019, Safar Zadeh had ceased to have a doctor-patient relationship with the patient, but had engaged in a relationship with her former husband, who is also a physician, the tribunal found.

Safar Zadeh then accessed the medical records of her former patient without her consent, stating that the woman “had been harassing and threatening her” and she needed to reference past care in case of incoming legal action, a summary of the complaint, initially issued to the College of Surgeons and Physicians of Ontario’s Inquiries, Complaints and Reports Committee reads.

She then however took photographs of the records and texted them to the woman’s ex-husband – in what the committee found to be “a serious breach of professional obligations […] done mainly for personal gain.”

Additionally, the committee found Safar Zadeh’s conduct to be “particularly problematic” not only due to the serious breach of confidentiality, but the amount of time she spent reviewing the woman’s medical record.

 “According to the audit trail, [Safar Zadeh] spent more than five hours in the Complainant’s medical record on Jan. 16, 2019,” the summary reads.

The OPSDT also found that Safar Zadeh told the woman’s former husband she would share the photographs with their children and the public, “if Patient A did not stop what Dr. Safar Zadeh asserted was harassment,” the ruling reads. The tribunal found these actions could have affected the patient’s custody of their daughter.

Safar Zadeh also disclosed the woman’s private medical information to one of their friends without consent, the tribunal wrote. In 2020, a number of text messages were sent to the woman’s daughter, referencing her health, the tribunal found.

The woman was made to feel “scared and stressed” by Safar Zadeh’s actions, the ruling states, causing her to become “reluctant to seek treatment” as she was afraid the confidentiality breaches would continue.

“She lost trust in the medical system and in her physicians because most of them worked at the hospital,” the ruling reads.

Little information regarding Safar Zadeh’s personal circumstances was provided in the Agreed Statement of Facts, the ruling says, and because Safar Zadeh admitted to the misconduct, a hearing and subsequent testimonies did not take place.

CTV News Toronto has reached out to Safar Zadeh for comment, but did not receive a response. North York General Hospital said they cannot speak to specific cases regarding patients and personnel, but that they take “privacy protection very seriously.”

“We have strong privacy policies and meet all requirements under the Personal Health Information Protection Act (PHIPA), including reporting to the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario when there is inappropriate chart access and conducting random audits,” a spokesperson for the hospital told CTV News Toronto.


While the tribunal found Safar Zadeh’s conduct to be “extremely serious” and worked to erode the patient’s trust in the medical system, they also underlined that North York General’s interim chief of medicine at North York General Hospital, Dr. Maral Nadjafi, “believes she has learned from her mistakes.”

“The public’s trust in the medical profession is fragile. It is undermined when physicians gain improper and unauthorized access to confidential medical records, which contain highly sensitive and personal information, and misuse it,” the ruling reads.

However, the tribunal also highlighted that Safar Zadeh admitted to her misconduct, and, in doing so, spared the patient from having to testify and the costs of a hearing.

They also said the Interim Chief of Medicine at North York General Hospital expressed support for Safar Zadeh’s return to the hospital after her suspension in a letter to the tribunal.

“The chief acknowledged that Dr. Safar Zadeh made serious mistakes but believes she has learned from those mistakes,” the ruling reads.

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