New Brunswick's College of Physicians and Surgeons has reactivated its investigation into the conduct of a specialist whom 24 women are now accusing of inappropriate touching during examinations.
Dr. Alan Cockeram, 61, who practises internal medicine and gastroenterology in Saint John, had several sexual assault charges against him — involving some of the same women — withdrawn by Crown prosecutors last summer.
At the time, the college was under a court order to suspend much its own investigation because of the criminal case, but on Friday those restrictions were lifted.
College registrar Dr. Ed Schollenberg said the investigation will resume immediately with Cockerum required to supply detailed responses to each woman's complaint within 60 days.
The complaints involve "a range of contact and a range of reactions to those contacts," said Schollenberg, although earlier court hearings detailed accusations of inappropriate touching, including unnecessary and inappropriate breast exams.
'More like fondling'
"I said I wasn't there for a breast exam. He asked me if I found any lumps," claimed one unnamed woman in an affidavit supplied at a court hearing last spring.
"I told him again I wasn't there for a breast exam. Dr. Cockeram was still touching both my breasts with both hands. It wasn't right."
A second woman claimed: "It was not a breast exam. It was more like fondling."
Although Saint John police initially charged Cockeram with one count of sexual assault in May of 2012 and later added eight more charges, the Crown suddenly withdrew all charges last July.
Nathalie Godbout, a lawyer acting for Cockeram in the college's action says the specialist has been "categorical" in denying any inappropriate touching and will continue to do so at any professional disciplinary hearing.
The College had been dealing with 19 complainants ranging in ages from 18 to 71, but Schollenberg said after the criminal case dissolved, five more came forward.
Women allege incidents between 1987 and 2011.
Cockeram has been licensed to practise in New Brunswick since 1984 but is currently restricted to treating men only.