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Doctor touched patients’ genitals during exams for depression, is sentenced to nine years for sex


By Betsy Powell - The Star - 23.11.2023 - [CANADA] - [Wameed Ateyah] Dr. Wameed Ateyah, who was the only family doctor in Schomberg, a hamlet north of Toronto, has been sentenced to nine years in prison after being found guilty of 16 counts of sexual assault and one count of sexual exploitation in relation to 13 female patients.


“Thirteen women are living with the aftermath of having been sexually violated by their doctor,” Superior Court Justice Jill Cameron wrote in her sentencing reasons, released Thursday in Newmarket court.


She noted that eight of the 13 complainants provided “heart-wrenching” victim impact statements. “The devastating effects of Dr. Ateyah’s actions are palpable. I admire their bravery in describing the very personal effects of what has happened to them.”


The 52-year-old family physician operated the Schomberg Medical Centre on Highway 27, just south of Highway 9, where he saw 2,000 regular patients along with walk-ins. According to the decision, he was the only practicing family physician in the town. He stepped into custody Thursday and has an application for bail pending appeal of his conviction scheduled to be heard immediately.


Ateyah’s lawyer, David Humphrey, said his client maintains his innocence. Humphrey had been seeking a three-year prison sentence, while the prosecution asked for nine.

He has an application for bail pending appeal scheduled to be heard Thursday afternoon.


In September, Cameron convicted him at the end of a trial after accepting the evidence of each of the complainants, finding that Ateyeh conducted examinations that were not medically necessary and instead done for a sexual purpose. The judge included in her reason summaries of each assault. Among the examples, she found the doctor conducted vaginal examinations on patients seeking help for depression, a migraine and pink eye; many took place without chaperones present.


One woman who sought his help for depression was asked to lie down an undo her pants. “As she did so, he put his hand inside her pants and pressed on her vaginal area over her underwear,” the judge wrote summarizing the complainant’s evidence.


The most aggravating factor in this case is that Ateyah abused his position of trust towards patients seeking medical treatment, the judge wrote in her 14-page sentencing decision.

“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,” Cameron wrote.


“They trusted Dr. Ateyah with their most intimate concerns: depression, issues with their reproductive systems; their breasts and their bodies. 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. In addition to feeling violated, these unnecessary examinations caused the women concern that something was wrong with them.”


The first patient to report to the College of Physicians and Surgeons did so in October 2016. According to the college’s website, he has been suspended as of November 2020.


He’s been able to practise in Canada without restrictions since 2005, and, in 2007, opened his family medicine and walk-in practice in Schomberg. In October 2018, he moved his practice to Beeton, Ont.


He provided 99 letters of support, “an impressive collective 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,” Cameron wrote.


If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article, you can contact Dignity4Patients, whose helpline is open Monday to Thursday 10am to 4pm.

 
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