‘Doctors are supposed to treat patients with respect. But sometimes they don’t’

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The sheer volume of his victims is staggering.

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Over the course of a decades-long medical career, disgraced Calgary neurologist Keith Hoyte used his position of power over vulnerable women to sexually assault at least 55 of them.

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The assaults themselves weren’t of the gravest nature, but they didn’t have to be to cause years of anguish and pain for patients who went to Hoyte hoping for answers to their medical mysteries, only to be turned into objects of his sexual gratification.

No victim was raped, or forced into a sexual activity, but the devastation Hoyte inflicted on these women was still horrendous.

In September 2020, Hoyte, now 75, was handed a three-year prison term for sexually assaulting 28 different patients from the 1980s to his retirement in 2013.

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But after his sentencing, a parade of other victims also came forward — 27 more in all — to describe similar abuse by their former physician.

Last week, Hoyte’s sentencing hearing on his latest charges heard often gut-wrenching victim-impact statements from 17 of those women, some racked with guilt for not coming forward sooner.

One woman suppressed her memories of the abuse, which occurred during a single appointment with Hoyte after being referred to him for debilitating migraines, until she read in the paper about him sexually assaulting more than two dozen other victims.

“I was so proud of the women who had come forward to police but felt sick about my lack of courage,” she wrote.

“I had failed all the women who saw him after me. I never came forward. Shame and guilt that I will carry forever. I apologize to them now. And I applaud them for helping to change the way women in society are treated.”

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Another victim expressed similar sentiments.

“I get angry at myself for allowing it to happen and for taking so long to say something,” she wrote.

“I feel guilty, illogically I know, for not coming forward years earlier to help stop this from happening to so many after me. I am mad at myself for not saying anything and not stopping it when it was occurring.”

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Yet another described how violated she felt by Hoyte’s abuse.

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“Doctors are expected to be kind, thoughtful and compassionate,” she wrote.

“Doctors are supposed to treat patients with respect. But sometimes they don’t.”

Like almost all the victims, she had doubts from the outset as to whether Hoyte’s inappropriate groping was simply part of a medical procedure. Perhaps that’s what the doctor relied on to get away with his conduct for all those years.

“Was it me?” that same victim asked.

“Was that weird? Did that just happen? Is that how this kind of appointment is supposed to be? It isn’t,” she concluded.

Most definitely it isn’t.

Whether Hoyte’s conduct was calculated to be minimal enough that his victims would simply “live with it” or his groping victims or having them strip naked in front of him was all he needed to be sickly gratified, only he knows.

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In a different setting such conduct might not seem so grave, or perhaps not as severe a violation of a woman’s integrity than what courts would deem major sexual assaults, such as forced intercourse. But in the context of a doctor, especially a specialist who would hold out such hope for patients whose family doctors were unable to provide a satisfactory diagnosis, such conduct is simply reprehensible.

In the new year Justice Allan Fradsham will decide a fitting punishment for Hoyte’s most recently uncovered crimes. The Crown is seeking three years, while the defence is proposing the maximum provincial time of two years less a day.

Regardless of the outcome, Hoyte’s crimes will have a lasting impact far longer than the time he’ll have to spend behind bars.


X: @KMartinCourts

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