Doctor convicted of sexually assaulting patient but cleared of rape

The judge said Wee Teong Boo (left) had no reason to carry out an internal examination without establishing the patient's sexual history, which is part of the procedure for investigating possible pelvic inflammation disease.
The judge said Wee Teong Boo (left) had no reason to carry out an internal examination without establishing the patient's sexual history, which is part of the procedure for investigating possible pelvic inflammation disease.ST FILE PHOTO

General practitioner Wee Teong Boo, 68, was cleared yesterday of raping a patient but convicted of sexual assault by penetration for inserting his fingers into the victim.

In acquitting Wee of rape, the High Court accepted medical evidence that he was suffering from erectile dysfunction at the time.

"There is a reasonable doubt as to whether penile penetration could have taken place as alleged in this case," said Justice Chua Lee Ming.

However, the judge said the fact remains that by his own admission, Wee had inserted his ungloved fingers into the victim, using his saliva as a lubricant. This occurred during a late-night consultation at his Bedok clinic in December 2015.

The judge rejected Wee's claim that he had done so to conduct an internal examination out of suspicion that the victim, then a 23-year-old student, could be suffering from pelvic inflammation disease (PID).

Justice Chua noted there was no mention of PID in the medical case notes. Wee claimed he did not write this down because he had two impatient patients waiting outside, but this cut no ice with the judge.

The judge also rejected Wee's explanations for not using gloves, proper lubricant and for not asking the patient if she needed a chaperone. Wee claimed that he forgot these basic requirements because he was "caught off guard" by her complaint of a genital itch.

 
 
 

"I do not accept his explanation. The accused is a very experienced doctor with 37 years' standing at the material time. His composure during cross-examination also showed he was not easily flustered," said Justice Chua.

The judge added that Wee had no reason to carry out an internal examination without establishing the patient's sexual history, which is part of the procedure.

He cited expert opinion that an investigation for PID would not start with a digital examination.

Wee was also convicted of a second charge of molesting the victim during an earlier consultation.

Sentencing was adjourned to tomorrow afternoon. Sexual assault by penetration carries the same prescribed sentence as rape - jail of up to 20 years, with caning or a fine. Wee cannot be caned as he is more than 50 years old.

Originally charged with one count each of rape and molestation, he had contested the charges in a trial that began in April last year.

The victim, who cannot be named to protect her identity, had been a regular patient at his clinic, Wee's Clinic & Surgery, since 2014.

On Nov 25, 2015, she consulted Wee for gastric discomfort.

 
 
 

She said that while she was on the examination bed for him to check her abdomen, he stroked her genital area. She said she felt uneasy, but thought it was part of the medical examination.

A month later, at about 11.30pm on Dec 30, she returned to the clinic complaining of frequent urination and an itch in her genital area. Lying on the bed, she said she heard the sound of a zipper and felt something "poke" her. She said she then saw his trousers were unzipped and realised he was raping her.

When she returned home, she washed herself and soaked her bloodstained underwear in a pail of water. She told her mother what had happened and made a police report later that same morning.

A medical examination found two small superficial wounds in her genital area and a fresh hymenal tear. Tests on the underwear showed no traces of semen, with insufficient DNA detected.

During the trial, which ended in October last year, medical evidence was submitted, with Wee's experts saying that he was suffering from erectile dysfunction and raising doubts over an earlier test, done in January 2016, which showed he was normal.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 26, 2019, with the headline 'Doctor convicted of sexually assaulting patient but cleared of rape'. Print Edition | Subscribe