Eight women sue Vancouver psychiatrist over alleged inappropriate sex acts
By Keith Fraser
June 7, 2018
Seven of the women were hired as personal-care aides by Dr. John Allan James Christensen and one of them was hired as a live-in caregiver.
Christensen, who has been a quadriplegic for 20 years and claims to suffer from chronic pain, advertised the positions on Craigslist and UBC CareersOnline.
The women, many of whom were interested in a career in the health-care field, were told that the postings for personal care aide did not require any previous experience.
The allegations against the 75-year-old psychiatrist, who has practised psychiatry for decades but whose current employment status is listed as “temporarily inactive” by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of B.C., date from 2011 to earlier this year.
Many of the women claim in their lawsuits filed in B.C. Supreme Court that he asked them to squeeze his testicles or penis in order to relieve pain. One woman said that she was told to heat up a bottle of massage oil before applying it onto Christensen’s testicles.
“The defendant told the plaintiff that the testicle massage was a medical treatment and it was important for his daily care.”
The woman, who worked for Christensen as a personal care aide from October 2011 to May 2012, said that she was also asked to perform “bowel care” on Christensen, a practice in which he asked her to insert her finger all the way up his anus and rotate the finger for a minute.
“While the plaintiff’s finger was inserted in the defendant’s anus, the defendant held onto the bar on his bed, rocked back and forth, screaming, “God have mercy, God have mercy!” says her suit.
“The defendant would scream this statement for approximately one minute. While the plaintiff’s finger was inserted in the defendant’s anus, the defendant would tell the plaintiff to, ‘Keep going.’ ”
The woman says that she was unaware that the sexual act was inappropriate and that it was not a medical procedure, and adds that she trusted what he told her as he was a doctor.
Another woman, who worked as Christensen’s live-in caregiver, made a similar allegation against him and claimed that he also asked her to blow dry his testicles and buttocks.
She said in her notice of civil claim that he instructed her on how to change his catheter and that she needed to get his penis partly erect and she shouldn’t worry because “it doesn’t bite” and that it is just his “snake” and she shouldn’t be shy.
The caregiver claimed that during the time she worked for Christensen, about 30 individuals worked for him at some point and resigned.
Several of the women claimed that Christensen verbally or emotionally abused them during their employment.
One whose job entailed checking his emails claimed that he told her to only respond to females interested in being hired as personal-care aides and to delete any emails from males.
The plaintiffs claim they’ve suffered problems, including anxiety, nightmares, emotional trauma, low self-esteem, loss of confidence and weight loss, and are seeking damages.
Naz Kohan, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said her clients ranged in age from their 20s to their 50s. She said she expects more women to come forward.
Christensen, who graduated with a medical degree from the University of Toronto in 1975, has filed responses to six of the suits denying the allegations. The responses say that the defendant, who is confined to a wheelchair, has no use of his lower body and has extremely limited use of his arms and hands.
“The defendant’s health condition is extremely debilitating, and he relies upon home care by others to provide for his basic living needs.”
Christensen says that at no time did he ever require any person who attended to his personal care to perform acts that had a sexual purpose. He says that the relationship between himself and the care aides was analogous to that between a nurse and a patient.
“All touching of the defendant by the plaintiff occurred with the plaintiff’s consent, which she could withdraw at any time. The defendant did not coerce or mislead the plaintiff to obtain such consent.”
Bill Smart, a retired judge who has returned to the practice of law and is representing Christensen, said that he expects responses will be filed to the two latest suits, which will also deny their allegations.
He said his client was “not well” and has been in the hospital recently.
In an email, the college said that it did not disclose personal information about registrants, including reasons behind a voluntary, temporary absence from practice.
“Similarly, complaints filed against physicians, past or present, including details of any subsequent investigation, are protected under B.C. privacy law,” said the college’s email. “Any investigation that leads to formal disciplinary action is published on the college website, and it remains on the public record. Full disclosure of disciplinary hearings and actions is a legislated requirement.”