MISSISSAUGA: Dr. Sastri Maharajh back in business a year after admitting to sexually assaulting up to 13 female patients
Dr. Sastri Maharajh is back in business a year after admitting to sexually assaulting up to 13 female patients; experts are concerned about lax laws that allow less severe penalties for all but the most serious sexual transgressions.
A Mississauga doctor disciplined by the province’s medical regulatory body for sexually abusing as many as 13 women is back in practice with conditions forbidding him from treating female patients.
“Important notice: Dr. Maharajh may treat male patients only,” reads a sign posted at the front desk inside Mississauga’s MD Walk-in clinic, where Dr. Sastri Maharajh has been working since late 2012.
Maharajh, 53, admitted to either placing his mouth on or resting his cheek on the breasts of up to 13 female patients between 2005 and 2011. He was disciplined for sexual abuse under the Regulated Health Professions Act after a College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario discipline committee hearing last summer.
Months after Maharajh’s licence was reinstated in July following an eight-month suspension, the strength of the legislation, touted as a zero tolerance law since its inception more than two decades ago, is being called into question.
Only sexual intercourse, various forms of contact with the genitals, the anus and the mouth, and masturbation merit a mandatory revocation of a doctor’s licence. If a doctor performs another type of sexual act, the panel can also decide to either suspend or impose specified terms, conditions and limitations on their licence.
A University of Toronto graduate, Maharajh, who specializes in family medicine, earned his medical licence in 1985. He worked out of a private practice before transferring to the walk-in clinic almost two years. Online reviews from former patients called Maharajh an excellent doctor; many expressed surprise at his recent disciplinary record.
The Star’s attempts to reach Maharajh at his home and clinic for comment were unsuccessful.
A female patient, whose identity is protected by a publication ban, lodged a complaint against Maharajh in July 2011 after the doctor cupped her nipple with his mouth during a breast examination, according to the discipline committee’s written decision. Maharajh later disclosed to the college similar incidents happened with 10 to 12 other women. No other complaints were filed with the college.
Peel Regional Police won’t say whether or not Maharajh is being investigated, but say his name has not appeared on an arrest report. College spokesperson Kathryn Clarke told the Star she couldn’t say whether it contacted the police about Maharajh specifically. The College is not mandated to.
Maharajh testified to the discipline committee he lost all thinking and control during the incident with the complainant, and was not conscious of what he was doing until after he had done it.
“The ‘next thing he knew,’ his mouth was on her nipple. He described himself as feeling dizzy, out of touch, having lost his higher thinking and his control; his actions were ‘semi-automatic’,” the decision says.
The doctor testified he was going through a difficult period with his wife and three children, was sometimes suicidal, suffered from obsessive compulsive disorder and was abusing alcohol during the six years.
Testifying on Maharajh’s behalf, the psychiatrist treating him — identified in the report only as Dr. B — said the incidents were not sexual in nature but a search for a familiar childhood comfort by a man who was breastfed until he was three years old.
“Dr. B explained that in placing his mouth on his patients’ breast, Dr. Maharajh was seeking the same sort of psychological nurturing that babies seek when they suckle at their mother’s breast,” the report said.
Though Dr. B said Maharajh “absolutely” accepts responsibility for his actions, the discipline committee disagreed.
“The Committee heard evidence from Dr. Maharajh about childhood challenges and family dynamic issues that led to his need for comfort, and about his personal life stressors that exacerbated his difficulties,” the report said.
“While the Committee is sensitive to these background facts, it viewed this testimony as offering excuse for his behaviour, rather than as an acceptance of responsibility for it.”
In addition to Maharajh’s practice being restricted to male patients only, the discipline committee said Maharajh has to continue therapy with a College-approved psychiatrist who will submit reports every six months, and reimburse the College for any counselling provided for up to six patients referred to in the report on the penalty hearing.