Doc appeals against conviction and jail sentence for molestation

By ELENA CHONG, COURT CORRESPONDENT BYLINE

A VETERAN doctor broke the "sacrosanct" trust placed in him by a female patient

is appealing against his conviction and ten-month jail sentence imposed yesterday after a court found he broke the "sacrosanct" trust by twice molesting a female patient.

Winston Lee Boon Siew, 70 - known as "the white-haired doctor" by his patients in Bukit Batok

(may 26) on two counts of molesting his patient in 2011.

Well-known at Bukit Batok as the "white-haired'' doctor, Winston Lee Boon Siew, who has been in private practice for some four decades, is out on $15,000 bail, pending his appeal.

The 70-year-old father of two, a long-time contributor of motoring articles to The Straits Times' Life section and Torque magazine, was convicted in March, after a seven-day trial, of touching the breast of a 34-year-old sales representative at Thong Hoe Clinic at Bukit Batok Street 11 on June 8 and Oct 30, 2011 when he repeated the act one more time.

The victim testified last year that she consulted Lee in June that year for nausea and stomach wind.

She was lying on the examination bed with her T-shirt lifted up when Lee began tapping her stomach.

When she complained of chest pain and asked the doctor if she could still exercise, Lee said, "Yes, as long as... you don't get chest pain here," as he inserted his hand into her bra and squeezed her breast.

She thought then the touch was appropriate because she had complained about chest pain.

But it was only after he did it again about four months later that she realised that Lee had taken advantage of her.

Even then, she did not immediately make a police report as she wanted to double check with her then boss and a female doctor friend.

The court heard she suffered significant and lingering emotional trauma as a result of Lee's acts, particularly the October incident. A doctor had diagnosed her to be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Lee's lawyer S. Selvaraj had urged the court not to jail his client as this would aggravate his hypertension, high blood pressure and heart condition.

He said Lee's wife, also a doctor who stopped practice after a stroke a fews ago, was totally dependent on him.

In his brief oral grounds of sentence, District Judge Lim Tse Haw said patients consent to their doctors touching their bodies based on the trust and understanding that it was necessary for treating their illnesses.

"This trust is sacrosanct. The public must have absolute confidence in their doctors that they will not abuse that trust when treating their patients.

"When that trust is broken and a doctor has abused that trust to violate the modesty of his patient, then the courts will impose a deterrent sentence in order to send a clear and unequivocal message that such reprehensible conduct will not be tolerated,'' he said.

He agreed with Deputy Public Prosecutor Sarah Ong that there were several aggravating factors in this case.

The circumstances in which the offences were committed were "inherently reprehensible'' as Lee had abused his professional position as a doctor to commit the offences under the guise of advising the victim on exercise.

"The fact that Dr Lee had repeated his act because the victim did not make a complaint against him after the June incident is clearly an aggravating factor.''

Judge Lim said by his actions, Lee has done a great disservice to the medical profession, most of whom he is sure are good doctors who provide excellent services to their patients.

He felt that Lee's medical problems were not severe enough to qualify his case as an exceptional case.

"In any event, I am confident that our prisons will have the necessary medical facilities to attend to Dr Lee's medical problems.''

Lee could have been jailed for up to two years and/or fined on each charge. He escapes caning as he is above 50.

elena@sph.com.sg