Pre-op nude photos: Teen, doc settle suit

Dr Martin Huang, in a e-mail message to the media yesterday, said the amicable resolution was made "without any admission of liability whatsoever".
Dr Martin Huang, in a e-mail message to the media yesterday, said the amicable resolution was made "without any admission of liability whatsoever".PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

Photos, records destroyed as part of settlement

SINGAPORE - A teen has settled her suit against well-known plastic surgeon Martin Huang for personal trauma and distress over photographs taken in the nude prior to a scar-removal operation.

The terms of the consent order are confidential, but include the destruction of the pictures and digital records.

Her lawyer, Senior Counsel Tan Chee Meng, told reporters: "My client accepts the apology and expression of regret by Dr Huang over his conduct towards her. She is happy with the outcome and feels completely vindicated."

The seven-day hearing was to start in the High Court yesterday, but the settlement was reached after several discussions in chambers.

Court documents state that the 17-year-old, who cannot be named, went to the Orchard Road clinic in November last year to have a scar on her inner thigh removed.

Her mother signed a consent form for the procedure, which included the taking of photos. She and the teen's younger sister, aged 15, then left the centre.

The teen said she had insisted on wearing a bra when the photographer was about to take pictures.

Dr Huang allowed this, but when pictures were taken of her thigh, a nurse suddenly pulled her underwear off.

She covered herself with her hands, but was told by the doctor to place her hands on her head and stand against a wall.

Senior Counsel Tan, who was assisted by Ms Melanie Ho, had described the pose as "extremely demeaning" to the teen.

In the suit filed through her mother, the teen alleged that there was a lack of informed consent, as well as assault and negligence on the part of Dr Huang, causing her to suffer "extreme mental distress and trauma".

In court papers filed by his lawyers Edwin Tong and Tham Hsu Hsien, the doctor stated he had explained that pre-operation photos would be taken, for her confidential medical records. It took less than three minutes to take the photos. 

The only people present were two nurses, the photographer and Dr Huang, 50, who was the only male in the room.

In an e-mail message to the media yesterday, Dr Huang said the teen had not complained about the medical procedure or the medical attention she received, but was upset that photographs were taken.

He also maintained that the photographs "were not wrongly taken", and that eminent plastic surgeons from both the private and public sectors had filed expert reports on his behalf confirming this. 

He added: "We have thus reached an amicable resolution on the express basis that it is without any admission of liability whatsoever. No costs orders were made, and I am happy that the matter is now behind me."

With this settlement, the case comes to an end. Last week, the teen dropped her suit against two other defendants in the same case. These were the Pacific Surgical And Endoscopy Centre – formerly known as the Specialist Surgery And Laser Centre – and Specialist Healthcare.

They had also reached a settlement with her.

These subsidiaries of publicly listed Pacific Healthcare Holdings were the employers of the nurses and the photographer. The three have since left the companies. 

khush@sph.com.sg