|Dr Claude Gauthier appears before Quebec's College of Physicians in Montreal, Sept. 13, 2011. (PIERRE-PAUL POULIN/QMI Agency)
MONTREAL - A family doctor faces a nine-month suspension after admitting to having sex with six female patients in his office over a more than two-decade period.
Dr. Claude Gauthier, a married father of three, pleaded guilty Tuesday to multiple ethics violations in court.
Gauthier, 56, had multiple sexual encounters between 1984 and 2006 in his office in Contrecoeur, Que., just east of Montreal. The judgement included a statement by a woman whose complaint led to an investigation by Quebec's College of Physicians.
She told investigators that she had sex with Gauthier during all of their appointments.
"I know he's had consensual sex with other women in his office," said the woman's statement. "I even saw pictures of other patients. Their faces can't be seen. Only their genitals. He called it art."
The College of Physicians has yet to decide if it will accept the suspension jointly recommended by the Crown and the defence.
Francois Samson, president of the college's disciplinary board, said a nine-month suspension is too light given the severity of the infractions.
The college also accuses Gauthier of storing tens of thousands of pornographic images on a computer in his home office. Between 40,000 to 50,000 pictures were found on the hard drive, including child porn.
The Crown could not prove that Gauthier downloaded the illegal files, but both sides agreed that he should be fined $5,000 for violations of his profession's code of ethics.
Gauthier had tried unsuccessfully to quash the seizure of the incriminating images.
He told the court that he regrets the sexual encounters.
"I would like to return to the past, but it's impossible," he said. "I know I hurt my patients.
"I overstepped the limits of the doctor-patient relationship. There was a bond of friendship rather than a professional relationship."
Gauthier will have to be accompanied by a nurse during all future sessions with patients.