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Toronto doctor sentenced to 10 years for sexually assaulting patients

Dr. George Doodnaught was found guilty of sexually assaulting women while they were undergoing surgery. HANDOUT

A judge has sentenced a Toronto doctor to 10 years in prison for sexually assaulting patients while they were sedated and undergoing surgery.

Dr. George Doodnaught, 65, was convicted of 21 counts of sexual assault in November 2013.

The incidents occurred between February 2006 and February 2010 when Doodnaught worked as an anesthesiologist at North York General Hospital. Doodnaught’s victims were 25 to 75 years old.

The Crown wanted Doodnaught to receive 12 to 15 years in prison, but defence lawyer Brian Greenspan asked for a range of eight to 10 years.

Doodnaught, whose wife and son were in the court room for the sentencing, declined to make a statement before he was sentenced — this is usually when the convicted person apologizes to his victims. His wife and son also did not show any emotion as the judge rendered his decision.

Greenspan said Doodnaught is appealing the 21 convictions. CityNews has learned a bail application will be filed on Wednesday, so he might spend just one night in jail.

In his ruling, Justice David McCombs said Doodnaught “manipulated [his victims] by saying they had initiated the sexual contact” and that “his power over them was absolute” as they lay helpless on the table.

The judge also said Doodnaught exploited the extraordinarily high degree of trust the patients placed in him and his conduct was “reprehensible in the extreme.”

Follow CityNews’ Avery Haines as she tweets from the courtroom.

Doodnaught’s lawyer asked for his client to be placed in protective custody, and the judge agreed, saying his offences create concern for his safety.

McCombs also ordered a DNA order, a lifetime ban on weapons and lifetime placement on the sex offender registry.

The judge said there has been no reported case like this in Canada and called the crimes “abhorrent” and that the “victims portrayed courage and dignity by coming forward.”

It was an emotional scene in the courtroom before and after the sentence was handed down. One woman couldn’t stop crying and gasped out in sadness.

The courtroom broke out in applause as Doonaught was led away in handcuffs. Outside of the courtroom, his victims sobbed and said, “Thank God. We did it. Thank God.”

Past court appearances

Earlier in February, victim impact statements were read during a two-day sentencing hearing. In the statements, some victims said that because of the assault they have lost their careers while others said they have lost their trust for the men they love.

When he was convicted in November, the judge found that Doodnaught relied on his three decades of operating room experience to avoid detection.

He sexually assaulted the women while concealed from other medical staff only by a surgical drape.

Doodnaught was known as a “touchy feely” doctor, so the judge found that his physical proximity during surgery didn’t arouse suspicion with other staff.

The assaults — all but one of which happened at North York General Hospital — became more frequent until Doodnaught was caught, with the first six spread over three-and-a-half years and 15 others in the last six months before he was stopped.

The hospital told Doodnaught to take a leave of absence after the last woman he assaulted went to police.

His medical licence was suspended but the College of Physicians and Surgeons still has to hold a disciplinary hearing which could lead to it being revoked.

The hospital’s CEO has apologized on behalf of the medical facility to all of the victims for the impact Doodnaught’s crimes had on their lives. The hospital has since made changes to how it addresses and tracks patient complaints.

With files from Marianne Boucher and Avery Haines, CityNews, and The Canadian Press

Read Judge David McCombs ruling below: