SGH doctor who threatened elderly father with knife sentenced to 12 months' probation

Dr Tham Kwang Wei was given 12 months' probation for threatening her father with a knife.
Dr Tham Kwang Wei was given 12 months' probation for threatening her father with a knife.ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

SINGAPORE - A Singapore General Hospital (SGH) doctor who threatened her 81-year-old father with a knife was given 12 months' probation on Wednesday. (Jan 6)

Tham Kwang Wei, 43, a SGH senior consultant , had admitted to threatening and causing hurt to her father, Dr Tham Ngiap Boo.

Tham, who was diagnosed with mental illness after the incident on Sept 30, 2014, had also held her father's neck in an armlock, and even bit him on his arm.

An Institute of Mental Health psychiatrist found there to be a "substantial causal link" between her mental disorder - depression with psychotic features - and her offence.

He said: "Her actions appear to have been driven by psychotic experiences related to her religious or spiritual beliefs, which made her believe that her actions were morally correct."

In sentencing Tham, Community Court Judge Mathew Joseph said: "This is a most unusual case and also a sad case."

Tham, he noted, had committed the offences due to her previously untreated condition; and she was committed and dedicated to her work.

"This case is also a stark reminder of the dangers of untreated depression combined with a high work load and personal stress," the judge said.

Noting that Tham works at a public hospital, the judge also agreed with the prosecution's call for no community service to be imposed on Tham.

Tham has since recovered and resumed full time work. She is a senior consultant and director at the SGH Life Centre's Obesity and Metabolic Unit.

The court had heard last year that Tham had approached her father at his clinic in Whampoa Drive, claiming that he owed God $150,000. She told him to give her the money so she could return it.

When he refused, she took out an 18cm-long knife and held it to his neck. She told him to give her a cheque for $150,000 or follow her to the bank to withdraw the money.

He tried to push her away and called for help. His clinic assistant opened the door but was forced out by Tham.

Tham forced her father onto a chair and held his neck in an armlock. He was struggling and trying to free himself when another staff member came and took away her knife. Tham then bit the victim's left forearm.

Tham's lawyer, Mr Selva K. Naidu, had said in mitigation that it all began in mid-2013 when Tham's father stopped going to church and stopped his monthly contributions.

She felt that her father's reneging on his pledge was wrong and stepped in to assist.

She took a bank loan and paid the church eight months of contributions totalling $27,700. She took on extra duties at work to pay this off, her lawyer said.

Three days before the incident, she forged her father's signature on a cheque for $28,030 as she felt that she had to retrieve the amount with interest from him.

This was taken into consideration during sentencing, along with another charge of being armed with a knife at the clinic.

Mr Naidu had said that his client's employer, SGH, was aware of the charges and her psychiatric condition, and had found her fit to continue her practice at the hospital.

amirh@sph.com.sg