SINGAPORE - A plastic surgeon who made his 17-year-old patient stand with her hands on her head while his nurse took pictures of her lower body, including her exposed genitalia, has been fined and censured by the Singapore Medical Council (SMC).
Dr Martin Huang, a plastic surgeon in private practice, was fined $10,000 for "failing to treat the patient with courtesy, consideration, compassion and respect and to protect her right to privacy and dignity".
He was also censured, had to promise not to repeat the offence, and pay 70 per cent of the costs incurred by the SMC for this case.
The SMC's published grounds of decision said the teenager had a biopsy done on a mole on the upper part of her inner left thigh in 2008, and that had resulted in a scar.
Her mother took her to see Dr Huang in November 2010 to have the scar removed. The mother left when the teenager was taken to the operating room.
The nurse told the teen to remove all her clothes and to put on disposable underwear, a medical gown and an overcoat. When Dr Huang entered the room, he told her to stand against the wall for photos to be taken, and told the nurse to help her remove both gown and overcoat.
According to the charges filed against Dr Huang, the teenager felt "extremely uncomfortable and embarrassed" and asked if she could wear her bra. Dr Huang allowed it.
He then told the nurse to roll down the disposable panties.
The teen "panicked and protested" but the nurse said the underwear had to be removed without explaining why it was necessary.
The nurse then suddenly pulled down the panties, "completely exposing her genitalia, causing the patient to be shocked and anxious and immediately reacting by using her hands to cover her genitalia", according to the charges.
Dr Huang told her to put her hands on her head while pictures of the front and back of her lower body were taken. Because the teenager was underage, her mother signed the form consenting to photographs as part of her confidential medical records.
But the charges said Dr Huang had not explained "the need to have such lower body photographs taken and the specific reasons why photographs of the patient's exposed genitalia were required".
Therefore, it meant the patient had not given informed consent for such photographs.
When the teen left the operating room, she was "distressed and upset" and called her mother, who filed a civil suit with the High Court against Dr Huang the following month, in December 2010. This was settled on the first day of the trial.
A year later, on Dec 8, 2011, the mother made a complaint to the SMC against Dr Huang.
A disciplinary tribunal was set up in February last year to hear the case, but the appointed chairman, Mr Thean Lip Ping, resigned the following month due to ill health.
He recovered and was re-appointed chairman of the tribunal in March this year. The hearing took place in October.
SMC's counsel had suggested a $7,000 fine, but the tribunal felt that "would have been just a 'slap on the wrist'". One mitigating factor, the tribunal said, was the four years "this complaint had been hanging over Dr Huang's head".
This is Dr Huang's second guilty finding by the SMC.
The first was in 2009 for using unorthodox treatment - injecting animal foetal cells to slow down ageing and to rejuvenate patients.
For that, he was fined $5,000, censured, had to promise not to repeat the offence and pay SMC's costs.