Doctor gets 10 years for sexually assaulting patients

OTTAWA (AFP) - A Canadian anaesthesiologist was sentenced to 10 years in prison on Tuesday for sexually assaulting 21 women while they were sedated but still aware of their surroundings.

George Doodnaught was convicted in November of kissing, fondling and forcing oral sex on the patients at North York General Hospital in Toronto during a four-year period that ended in 2010.

The victims were aware of what was happening but could not move, the court heard.

In delivering the sentence, Ontario Superior Court Judge David McCombs called the crimes "shocking and abhorrent", according to public broadcaster CBC.

"His conduct did enormous damage and was reprehensible in the extreme," it quoted Judge McCombs as saying.

During the trial, the defence had argued that the victims actually had vivid sexual dreams caused by sedatives known to play tricks with memory, and that Doodnaught could not have assaulted them undetected by others separated only by a surgical screen in the operating room.

A researcher confirmed in court that the drugs can cause hallucinations. But he added it was unlikely that all of the women, who did not know each other, would come forward separately with similar accusations against the same doctor.

The prosecution said Doodnaught was an experienced doctor who knew the routines of a busy operating room, and timed the brief assaults to avoid detection.

"He had control over their level of anaesthesia and would have known that they could not openly resist," Judge McCombs said in his ruling in November. "He relied on the amnesiac effects of the drugs to shield him from complaints."

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