Canada
Toronto doc guilty of sexually assaulting 21 patients under sedation

Doctor George Doodnaught leaves 361 University Ave courthouse Monday, February 4, 2013.

Credits: Craig Robertson/Toronto Sun/QMI Agency

SAM PAZZANO | QMI AGENCY

TORONTO -- An anesthesiologist was found guilty Tuesday of forcing 21 female patients to engage in sexual acts while they were conscious but sedated during operations.

Dr. George Doodnaught committed the offences -- including incidents of kissing, touching, fondling and forced fellatio -- during surgeries performed at North York General Hospital between February 2006 and February 2010.

Doodnaught, 64, who worked at the hospital from 1981 until he was charged in 2010, had pleaded not guilty to 21 charges of sexual assault. The victims' identities are covered by a publication ban.

"I conclude that the Crown has established the guilt of the accused on all 21 charges," Justice David McCombs said. "The evidence supporting guilt is overwhelming.

"The multitude of credible allegations against the same individual in similar circumstances constitutes powerful circumstantial evidence of guilt."

The defence argued that it was physically impossible for Doodnaught to have sexually assaulted patients in busy operating rooms and that the patients were having drug-induced hallucinations and erotic dreams.

"I am unable to accept... that in some cases it was physically impossible to commit the acts alleged. He had the opportunity to commit the sexual assaults," McCombs concluded.

Defence experts testified that it is well documented that the drugs used by Doodnaught can cause sexual hallucinations or contribute to the complainants' honest but mistaken belief that they were sexually assaulted, McCombs wrote in his judgment.

"The Crown points to the undisputed evidence of a long history of virtually event-free surgeries on hundreds of consciously-sedated patients using the same or similar drugs, and submits it is fanciful to suggest the drug-induced hallucinations could have caused or contributed to false memories of sexual assault" by the victims, wrote McCombs.

A sentencing hearing date will be set on Dec. 13.

"Justice was served 21 times," Crown attorney David Wright said.

The victims -- ranging in age from 25 to 75 -- were subjected to various forms of sexual abuse by Doodnaught while they were having operations such as hip and knee replacements and hysterectomies, wrote McCombs.

The last victim was a 43-year-old mother of twins, who was placed into "conscious sedation" in February 2010. She testified that Doodnaught began fondling her breasts under her surgical gown, kissed her and forced her to perform oral sex.

The woman was a critical witness as her complaint about Doodnaught "triggered both the hospital and police investigations," Wright said.

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