SINGAPORE - Ler Teck Siang, the doctor involved in the HIV data leak in January last year, has been removed from the medical register, the Singapore Medical Council's (SMC) disciplinary tribunal said in its grounds of decision released on Tuesday (Sept 1).
The 39-year-old Singaporean, who was the former head of the Ministry of Health's National Public Health Unit, had helped his American former partner Mikhy Farrera-Brochez dupe the authorities into issuing a work pass by lying about Farrera-Brochez's HIV-positive status.
In its written findings, the tribunal, made up of Professor Walter Tan, Associate Professor Tan Tong Khee and Mr Bala Reddy (legal service officer), found that Ler's conviction by the courts on various charges implied "a defect in character rendering (Ler) unfit for his profession".
Ler's conduct in each of the charges he had been convicted of caused severe harm, and the nature of the offences also showed that Ler's degree of culpability was high. The tribunal ruled therefore that Ler should be served the most severe punishment.
The tribunal also said it is not correct for Ler to claim that no harm had been caused and that Ler had gained nothing from the commission of the offences. "(Ler) had derived non-monetary gain from his commission of the offences in the Penal Code Charges, and had undermined the safeguards put in place by governmental authorities for the maintenance of public health."
The tribunal said that Ler, who represented himself in the February hearing, was not being brought to task for a simple dishonest act, but for criminal convictions involving fraud and dishonesty.
"(Ler) had engaged in the deception of governmental authorities not once, but four times... (Ler's) four offences took place over the course of several years, with the false statements to the Ministry of Health and the police made in order to cover up his earlier wrongdoing, which could in no way be said to be a one-off lapse in judgment or otherwise trivial," the tribunal said.
"This tribunal is of the view that severe harm or potential harm had been caused to public confidence in the profession, and the health and safety of the public, by (Ler's) conduct.
"Under the 'culpability' element, the most relevant factor to be considered in the present case is the extent of premeditation and planning involved, including the lengths to which the doctor went to cover up his or her misconduct," said the panel, which also ordered Ler to bear the costs of the tribunal hearing.
The SMC was represented by Mr Chia Voon Jiet and Mr Sim Bing Wen from law firm Drew & Napier.
Ler was sentenced to a two-year jail term for abetting Farrera-Brochez to commit cheating and for providing false information to the police and the Health Ministry.
In addition, Ler is facing a separate charge under the Official Secrets Act (OSA) for failing to take reasonable care to retain possession of the information relating to the HIV Registry, as well as a charge for refusing to provide a urine specimen to narcotics officers.