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Oral surgeon who let guard remove inmate's teeth looking for discharge

Dr. Louis Bourget is seen in Gander Supreme Court on Feb. 2, 2024. (Troy Turner/CBC - image credit)
Dr. Louis Bourget is seen in Gander Supreme Court on Feb. 2, 2024. (Troy Turner/CBC - image credit)
Dr. Louis Bourget is seen in Gander Supreme Court on Feb. 2, 2024.
Dr. Louis Bourget is seen in Gander Supreme Court on Feb. 2, 2024.

Dr. Louis Bourget is seen in Gander Supreme Court on Feb. 2, 2024. Bourget is asking for an absolute discharge after pleading guilty to assault for allowing a prison guard to perform a tooth extraction on a sedated inmate. (Troy Turner/CBC)

If he's not given a discharge on an assault charge, Dr. Louis Bourget says his career is over.

The Nova Scotia-based oral surgeon, who operates out of Gander one week every month, was charged with assault after he permitted a correctional officer to extract an inmate's teeth in October 2020. The incident was recorded by another correctional officer on his phone.

In Gander court on Tuesday, 62-year-old Bourget, who pleaded guilty to the charge, took the stand for sentencing submissions.

"I'm not better than anyone else," he said. "I have good hands and a good head. I just want to use it."

The court heard how Bourget helps others in his profession and how few oral surgeons have amassed his level of training. Bourget says in his 27 years of practice in Atlantic Canada, he estimates he's seen 120,000 patients, extracted about 85,000 teeth and completed 6,000 facial reconstruction surgeries.

He volunteers at a ski hill in Nova Scotia and has set up a non-profit organization to help hospitals in Africa and Brazil.

Now, he says, when he searches his name online, he sees nothing positive.

His testimony in Gander Supreme Court was emotional at times, especially when talking about being away from his family during the pandemic and how the incident has affected his career.

"I feel terrible," he said. "I feel like I've let everyone down."

The incident took place at Bourget's practice in the Gander Family Dental Clinic. Two correctional officers — Ron McDonald and Roy Goodyear —  accompanied inmate Blair Harris to the clinic.

According to the agreed statement of facts, when Harris was sedated, Bourget was explaining the procedure to the guards, and he then suggested one perform the extraction of the four teeth. McDonald took out four teeth while Goodyear recorded the whole thing.

According to the statement of facts, Bourget said he "got caught up in a teaching moment" but regretted the decision after the procedure.

Today, he said it was a lapse in judgment, due in part to the stresses of the pandemic.

On the stand, Bourget also said it was not exactly an extraction of teeth, since the tissue around the teeth was moved and teeth were very loose at the time.

"The teeth weren't extracted; they were picked up [with forceps]," he said.

Following the suspensions by the dental associations, Bourget was ordered a psychological assessment, which he said came back clean. He also said he voluntarily did a criminological assessment, which produced the same result.

The court also heard that this ordeal has cost him about $1 million in personal losses, in addition to an undisclosed settlement with the victim in a civil matter.

A victim impact statement was presented in court, but not read out. It had previously been challenged by the defence, but had been redacted before being presented today.

While the defence is asking for an absolute discharge — meaning Bourget will not be on probation and will have no criminal record after one year — the crown is looking for three months' house arrest.

Crown attorney Tina Walsh believes Bourget regrets his decision and is a low risk to reoffend, but since the victim was sedated at the time, Bourget was in a high degree of position of trust in this matter, which makes it more serious.

She also pointed out that even though Bourget said he regretted it immediately after, he did not take an action to contact the victim to explain what had happened, and only acknowledged the assault after it was made public.

Bourget will be sentenced in Gander Supreme Court on April. 9.

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