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Judge hears from victims of neurologist who sexually assaulted 55 patients

A 1997 complaint to Alberta’s College of Physicians and Surgeons should have served as a “shot across the bow” for a now-disgraced Calgary doctor who has admitted to sexually assaulting 55 female patients, the Crown said Tuesday at a sentencing hearing for Keith Hoyte.

Prosecutor Rosalind Greenwood argued that the retired neurologist, now 75, should spend another three years in prison, while defence lawyer Alain Hepner asked the judge to consider a two-year jail term.

Justice Allan Fradsham will make his decision early in the new year.

Hoyte was first charged in 2018. In 2020, after pleading guilty to 28 counts of sexual assault, he was handed a three-year prison sentence. 

He has since been released from prison. 

After the first round of charges, dozens more women came forward to police. 

Last December, Hoyte pleaded guilty to 27 more counts of sexual assault. 

The woman, all female patients who ranged in age from 16 to 46, were groped and fondled by Hoyte. It started in 1983 and continued until he retired in 2013. 

Over the 30-year period, Hoyte would instruct his female patients — who were seeking treatment for serious neurological issues like migraines, seizures, strokes and multiple sclerosis — to undress. 

He’d then untie and lower the gowns before fondling his victims’ breasts, according to an agreed statement of facts presented as part of the retired doctor’s guilty plea last December.

During Tuesday’s sentencing hearing, 17 victim impact statement were read aloud, several by the women themselves.

A publication ban protects the victims’ identities.

‘Ultimate abuse of power’

Many of the women described being in an already vulnerable state when they were referred to the neurologist, whose actions were “the ultimate abuse of power,” wrote one victim.

Another woman said that after Hoyte assaulted her, he coldly told her she had MS, which was “a potential death sentence at the time,” she said. 

Other women wrote about delaying care and treatment for their ailments because they were too anxious to return to a doctor. 

“I froze under the power and authority he’d been ordained with to practise medicine,” wrote one woman. 

‘A shot across the bow’

In her sentencing arguments, Greenwood told the court that the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta received a complaint about Hoyte groping a patient in 1997. 

The college could not rule out a possible clinical explanation, so the complaint was dismissed — but it did find the touching was inappropriate.

“This should have been a shot across the bow for Keith Hoyte,” said Greenwood.

“He got caught and was spoken to about inappropriate touching.”

Despite this, Hoyte continued to sexually assault patients.

‘I’m truly sorry’

In defence sentencing submissions, Hepner told the judge his client was a “contributing member of the profession for over 45 years.”

When given the opportunity to speak, Hoyte offered an apology to his victims and his family. 

“Personal shame cannot describe the way I feel,” said Hoyte. 

He acknowledged the “scars” his victims carry and said he wouldn’t ask for forgiveness.

“I have hurt you and my entire family. I’m truly sorry.”

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