Legally Speaking
March 2023
By Bryan Salte, Associate Registrar and Senior Legal Counsel, CPSS 
and Sheila Torrance, Legal Counsel, CPSS

Expectations for Advertising by Physicians

The College expects that all physicians who advertise their practices are aware of, and comply with, the advertising bylaw which came into effect in December 2022.

Council adopted bylaw 27.1 after reviewing the recommendations from a Council committee, and reviewing the advertising bylaws of other Canadian Colleges, and considering stakeholder feedback on the proposed amended bylaw.

Among the expectations established by the bylaw are the following:

  • Physicians must be able to demonstrate that advertising is clear, factual and accurate.
  • Advertising can only disclose identifiable information about a patient if the patient has consented in writing to the use of that information.
  • Physicians must meet specific requirements to post photos or videos of patients.
  • Advertising cannot refer to a specific drug, appliance or equipment.
  • Physicians cannot use their name or likeness to promote a commercial product or a service provided by others.
  • Advertising cannot provide an inducement for a patient to receive a medical service.
  • Advertising will identify if any services that are offered are not publicly funded.
  • Physicians will respond to a request from the Registrar to substantiate any advertising claim.

The College encourages any physician who has questions about a proposed advertisement to obtain advice from the College.



As much physician advertising occurs in the realm of cosmetic/aesthetic medicine, we have compiled a list of frequently asked questions to provide some additional guidance for practitioners.

Q 1    Bylaw 27.1(e)(viii) states that ads containing a reference to a “specific drug, appliance or equipment” is to be strictly avoided.  Many cosmetic clinics mention various trademarked products and processes in their advertising (for example Botox, Dysport, Juvederm, CoolSculpting, IPL, etc.).  Is this still permitted?
Response:   No, this type of reference to a specific product is not permitted pursuant to the amended bylaw.  Physicians will instead have to utilize more neutral descriptors such as “bioactive agents" in their advertising.
Q 2   Am I still able to offer a special price/unit of Botox?  How about a package that includes multiple treatment modalities for a package price? Or a 50% off promotion?

Response: Bylaw 27.1(m) states that physicians must not directly or indirectly participate in advertising that offers any inducement to a patient to receive a medical service.This prohibition specifically includes advertising of time-limited prices for a service (for example a 50% off promotion), discount coupons, gift certificates, “parties” where consultation or medical services are provided, etc.  Offering a package price for multiple treatment modalities is likely not contrary to the bylaw.
Q 3    Can my website still include an online store for purchase of products?
Response:    Provided that the physician is in compliance with the policies Sale of Products by Physicians and Complementary and Alternative Therapies, the advertising bylaw does not specifically preclude an online store.  However, it is unclear how this could operate effectively without reference to specific drugs/products.  While the College is not aware how many physicians currently offer an online store, if this is a broad-based concern, it may be necessary to take this question back to the Council for its interpretation whether this would contravene the bylaw.
Q 4   Can my website include patient testimonials?
Response:   Bylaw 27.1(g) includes requirements for a physician to include the name or identifying features of a patient.  This can be done if a) the physician has obtained the patient’s prior written consent to use the information for advertising purposes; b) the physician does not offer any inducement (anything that persuades or influences) to the patient in return for consenting to use their information for advertising purposes; and c) the information disclosed is believed by the physician to be accurate.
Q5   Can my website include before and after photographs or videos?
Response:   As set out in Bylaw 27.1(h), before and after photographs/videos can be utilized if the requirements are met.  This includes ensuring they depict an actual patient who received the advertised medical services from the physician associated with the advertisement; portray an outcome that can be “reasonably and typically” expected; are not manipulated to misrepresent results; and have consistent lighting, pose etc. to maintain standardization of images.  De-identification is required unless the patient has specifically consented to be identified; specific rules for obtaining consent in this context are found in bylaw 27.1(j).

Bylaw 27.1(i) states that before and after photos/videos cannot be displayed in advertisements where members of the public are likely to see them unsolicited.  In other words, they can be used on a website but should not be included on a billboard.

Q 6    I am the medical director for a med-spa operated by a nurse, and I do not provide services at that facility.  Can my name be used in advertising for the facility?
Response:   No.  Pursuant to bylaw 27.1(k), physicians’ names/likenesses may not be used in advertising for facilities where they do not personally provide medical services.
Q 7   I provide medical services in a clinic owned by a nurse injector.  The nurse/owner is responsible for the clinic advertising.  Can I be held responsible for advertising that includes my name when I am not the clinic owner?

It depends.  Bylaw 27.1(q) states that a physician must promptly comply with a request from the Registrar to confirm whether a specific advertisement is made by or on behalf of the physician.  Bylaw 27.1(p) states that a physician must ensure advertising done on their behalf by a third party complies with the bylaw.  It is unprofessional conduct for a physician to advertise in a manner contrary to the bylaw or to permit any clinic with which the physician is associated to advertise contrary to the bylaw (bylaw 27.1(r)).  This assumes the physician has some degree of control over the clinic and/or its advertising. 

If a physician is simply working at a facility in which they do not have an ownership interest or managerial responsibilities, and do not have influence over the advertising, there is not a breach.  If, however, the physician hires a communications company to do advertising on their (or their clinic’s) behalf, then the physician could be held responsible for such advertising.




  Bryan Salte is Associate Registrar and Senior Legal Counsel at the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Saskatchewan.

  Sheila Torrance is Legal Counsel at the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Saskatchewan.