T.O. hospital reaches deal with alleged assault victims
TORONTO - A Toronto hospital has reached a settlement with 26 female patients who allege they were sexually assaulted by an anesthetist in the operating room.
The lawyer for the women confirmed Thursday they had reached a deal with North York General Hospital on March 8 but Darcy Merkur would not divulge financial details citing confidentiality.
He described the agreement as "fair, efficient, sensitive and respectful" to his clients and the patients at the hospital.
"Our clients are satisfied with the result," he said.
Dr. George Doodnaught, who had worked at the hospital for 28 years, faces sexual assault charges involving 29 women. The alleged assaults took place between June 1992 and February 2010 either at the hospital or at a clinic.
He has not been tried or convicted and has been released on bail. A preliminary hearing is set for late October.
Doodnaught's lawyer Brian Greenspan called the settlement "a rush to judgment" and said the doctor, who was not involved in the negotiations of the deal, plans to vigorously defend himself against the charges.
"They're free to do what they want but from our perspective it's quite reprehensible not to have even sought out the position that Dr. Doodnaught has," said Greenspan. "Dr. Doodnaught is not only presumed to be not guilty, to be presumed innocent, but he asserts clearly and has from the outset asserted his innocence of any wrongdoing."
In a statement Thursday, interim hospital president and CEO Tim Rutledge said the facility respects the fact that the criminal investigation is still ongoing.
"In entering this agreement, the hospital was intent on resolving claims in an equitable manner that avoided a lengthy legal process for its patients," said Rutledge.
Healthcare Insurance Reciprocal of Canada, which insures the hospital, had no comment on the case.
In January, a Toronto judge ruled Doodnaught, 62, who has been an anesthetist since 1981, would be allowed to perform medical procedures in clinics but only on male patients. He was ordered to have no contact with female patients.
The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario said Thursday that Doodnaught is not currently working at a hospital or clinic. Spokeswoman Kathryn Clarke said the college is investigating Doodnaught.
Police allege that 28 assaults took place at the hospital and one assault took place at the Rice Medicine Professional Corp., a plastic surgery clinic, in Toronto.