'Difficulty trusting doctors:' Former patient testifies in Regina sex assault trial

·3 min read

REGINA — A woman has testified it's been hard for her to seek medical help since she was sexually assaulted by a former doctor during a colonoscopy.

"I have difficulty trusting doctors, and it has held me back from getting medical attention I need and deserve," she told court Monday.

"This experience taught me that in order to get potentially life-saving medical attention, I have to offer my body as a price of admission and that's totally unfair."

The 40-year-old mother of three said Sylvester Ukabam, a Regina doctor she had known for three years, sexually touched her during the procedure in May 2013.

Ukabam, 76, is facing seven counts of sexual assault that allegedly occurred between December 2010 and April 2017. A publication ban prohibits any of the complainants from being named.

He pleaded not guilty to all charges on the first day of his trial Monday.

Crown prosecutor Jackie Lane said the former doctor sexually assaulted five women during medical exams he did as a gastroenterologist — a doctor who deals with disorders of the stomach and intestines.

The Saskatchewan College of Physicians and Surgeons says on its website that it charged Ukabam in 2018 with unprofessional conduct for alleged "sexual boundary breaches," but the matter was resolved when he agreed to give up his licence and stop practising medicine.

Lane told Court of Queen's Bench during her opening arguments that Ukabam touched the five patients inappropriately.

"Ukabam was given access to each of these women, by virtue of medical care given, and betrayed that trust by touching them sexually without their consent," Lane said.

The first complainant to testify, the 40-year-old mother, said she felt pressure in her vagina when she was getting the colonoscopy from Ukabam.

"I have to assume it was Dr. Ukabam because he was at my bottom and was performing the colonoscopy," she said.

She told court she has a family history of colon cancer, including a death, which was why she sought the procedure.

"I'm scared to get another colonoscopy, so scared," she told the judge, who is hearing the case without a jury.

"I'm also scared to let my children get their (medical) procedures."

The doctor's lawyer, Aaron Fox, did not give an opening argument, but told court the defence will focus on the complainants' reliability and on what took place.

During his cross-examination of the first witness, Fox suggested the woman was mistaken in her recollection of the procedure because she was sedated. He said the pressure she felt in her vagina could have been medically related.

Fox also asked the woman if anyone else could have been near her when the procedure was taking place.

"It's possible," she said.

Fox concluded by asking the woman if the doctor being Black played a role in her believing something improper had taken place.

"No. It had no bearing on it. Dr. Ukabam was someone I highly respected, I held in high regard. I take offence you would suggest that."

The trial is to resume Tuesday and is scheduled until Feb. 2.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 10, 2022.

Mickey Djuric, The Canadian Press

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version said the Saskatchewan College of Physicians and Surgeons found Ukabam guilty in 2018 of unprofessional conduct.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting