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'Calculated': Former Ont. doctor sentenced to 9 years after 13 female patients sexually assaulted

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Warning: Details in this article may be disturbing to some readers.

Once the only doctor in a small town in southern Ontario, a former physician has been sentenced to nine years in jail after he was found to have sexually assaulted more than a dozen female patients at his York Region clinic.

On Thursday, Justice Jill Cameron sentenced Wameed Ateyah, 52, to nine years, less five days, at the Newmarket Superior Court of Justice after he was found guilty in September of sexually assaulting 13 female patients.

The assaults took place between 2008 and 2017, when Ateyah was the only practicing family physician and the only doctor offering walk-in clinic services in the village of Schomberg, Ont., the decision reads. 

The first complaint made by a patient regarding the physician's conduct was to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO) in 2016, eventually resulting in a requirement he have a practice monitor, or chaperone, present in the room with him when he examined patients.

In 2020, York police laid a total of 28 charges on Ateyah as part of an investigation launched after two female patients came forward to the service with allegations of sexual assault, they said.

“It is impossible to summarize the magnitude of suffering that has occurred because of Dr. Ateyah's actions,” the judge wrote in the decision. ”The complainants have suffered in many ways. Their trust in medical professionals has been eroded.”

When reached for comment, Ateyah’s lawyer, David Humphrey told CTV News Toronto that Ateyah “maintains his innocence.”

According to Humphrey, Ateyah has retained counsel with the intention to appeal the conviction. In a hearing following the sentencing, he was granted bail pending his appeal.

York Regional Police have charged Dr. Wameed Ateyah with seven counts of sexual assault. (Supplied)

'CAPITALIZED ON VULNERABILITIES': JUDGE

In considering the sentence, the judge noted that, to some, Ateyah had been a good physician and well-loved member of the community. He had no criminal records prior to the incidents.

More than 90 letters of support were submitted to the court for consideration in Ateyah’s sentencing, Cameron wrote.

“They are an impressive collection of testaments to a man well-loved, well-respected, and an accomplished physician who worked hard to build up a successful practice and a positive reputation in the community," the decision reads.

The most aggravating factor in the case, according to Cameron, was a breach of trust.

“When these women sought medical treatment from Dr. Ateyah, they relied on the promise that a medical doctor would only take action to help them and to treat their ailments,” she wrote. “He capitalized on their vulnerabilities as his patients, none of whom had any medical training, to coerce them into examinations that afforded him the opportunity to exploit their bodies for his own sexual gratification.”

The Schomberg Medical Clinic can be seen above in August 2019 (Google)

Cameron described Ateyah’s misconduct as “calculated acts.”

In the case of five different patients, respectively presenting with a migraine, pink-eye, depression, and back pain, Ateyah suggested that the women’s hormones or reproductive systems could be the root cause, the judge wrote.

“To that end, he explained to them that he needed to check their ovaries or do an internal exam and asked them to undo their pants so he could touch their vaginas,” the judge wrote.

In the case of three additional patients, Cameron said Ateyah waited until the chaperone was no longer present, reentered the examination room, and sexually assaulted the women.

On more than one case, she noted that Ateyah had created false records, listing inaccurate reasons for patients' visits, in an effort to justify his assaults.

“These were calculated and manipulative actions consciously undertaken to exploit his position of power,” the judge wrote.

According to the decision, all but one of the assaults occurred without a chaperone present.

'A MISUNDERSTANDING'

According to a former patient and employee of the clinic, Ateyah was not forthcoming about the initial misconduct investigation launched by the CPSO.

The former employee, hired at the clinic to serve as the practice monitor in late 2018, said that when she inquired about the position, Ateyah suggested to her that the allegations against him were baseless.

“He told me these women were against him – that they were all lying,” she told CTV News Toronto. “He was a very intimidating man.”

Once she assumed the role, she claimed Ateyah told her to remain outside of the examination room while he saw patients on multiple occasions.

“It didn’t take me long to realize that these women were telling the truth,” she said.

After just four months in the role, the woman said she requested a meeting with the clinic’s property management and Ateyah. Before that meeting could take place, she was fired from the clinic, she said.

One former patient, an adult male, said he never had an adverse experience with Ateyah, but that the former physician echoed a similar sentiment when asked about the posters displayed in the waiting room.

“I asked what all [the posters] were about and he said it was a big misunderstanding,” the former patient said.

Initially, the man believed his doctor, he said. It wasn’t until Ateyah was charged that the former patient said he realized the magnitude of the situation.

“When you have a doctor you’re supposed to be comfortable with, to hear he had done those things, it really took a chunk out of me,” he said.

“My heart goes out to the victims," he added. 

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