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The Globe and Mail

Hospital settles lawsuit with 26 women who allege sexual assault by doctor

A Toronto hospital has settled lawsuits with twenty-six women who alleged they were sexually assaulted by one of its former anesthetists.

The suits against Dr. George Doodnaught, who worked at North York General for 28 years, were dealt with through an alternative dispute resolution process by which the hospital would examine the women's claims and provide compensation to those who qualified.

The settlement was bound by a strict confidentiality agreement, which prevents either side from explaining exactly what process was followed to assess the claims, what compensation was paid out or how many claimants qualified for it. A lawyer representing the women said all the claims had been resolved.

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"We've done so in a manner that…we believe is fair, efficient and sensitive to our clients," said Darcy Merkur, a partner at the firm Thomson Rogers.

The ADF process was designed to avoid a court battle and allow the women to protect their anonymity.

"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 Dr. Tim Rutledge, the hospital's interim chief executive, in a statement. "This represented our willingness to move forward with the claims in a manner that was respectful and sensitive to our patients."

Hospital spokeswoman Karen Kelly refused to say whether the process would be available to all of Dr. Doodnaught's alleged victims, or only the 26 represented by Thomson Rogers. In an email, she wrote the hospital was "not aware of the plans of the other three [victims]"

It was not immediately clear if the compensation process was available to all of Dr. Doodnaught's alleged victims, or only the 26 represented by Thomson Rogers.

The 62-year-old anaesthetists was charged a little over a year ago with sexually assaulting three women while they were sedated for surgery. Others came forward with complaints and, in June, the hospital reached an agreement with Thomson Rogers to create the resolution process.

In September, police charged Dr. Doodnaught in 26 more cases.

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The criminal cases, meanwhile, are still working their way through the courts and the allegations remain untested.

His bail conditions prevent him from having any contact with female patients and stipulate he must be supervised by another doctor at all times if treating a patient. The records of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario indicate he is not currently practising anywhere in the province.

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