A veteran doctor who broke the "sacrosanct" trust placed in him by a female patient when he groped her breasts on two separate visits was handed a 10-month jail sentence yesterday.
However, 70-year-old Winston Lee Siew Boon - known as "the white-haired doctor" to his patients in Bukit Batok - has filed a notice of appeal against both that and his conviction on two counts of molestation.
The father of two, who has been in private practice for four decades, is out on $15,000 bail pending his appeal. His passport has been surrendered.
In passing sentence, District Judge Lim Tse Haw said patients consent to their doctors touching their bodies based on the trust and understanding that it is necessary for treating their illnesses.
"This trust is sacrosanct," he said. "The public must have absolute confidence in their doctors that they will not abuse that trust when treating their patients.
"When that trust is broken and a doctor has abused that trust to violate the modesty of his patient, then the courts will impose a deterrent sentence in order to send a clear and unequivocal message that such reprehensible conduct will not be tolerated."
In June 2011, the victim, a sales representative, visited Thong Hoe Clinic in Bukit Batok Street 11 and told Lee that she had stomach wind and nausea.
She was lying on the examination bed with her T-shirt lifted up when Lee tapped her stomach.
When she complained of chest pain and asked if she could still exercise, Lee inserted his hand into her bra, squeezed her breast and said: "Yes, as long as... you don't get chest pain here."
She thought it was part of the examination but around four months later - while visiting him for a sore throat and to discuss weight management - he groped her breast again and she realised Lee had taken advantage of her.
After telling her then boss and a female doctor friend about what happened, she decided to make a police report. The court heard she suffered significant and lingering emotional trauma as a result of Lee's acts.
A doctor diagnosed her with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Lee's lawyer S. Selvaraj urged the court not to jail his client as it would aggravate his hypertension, high blood pressure and heart condition. He said Lee's wife, a doctor who retired after suffering a stroke about three years ago, was totally dependent on him.
However, Judge Lim agreed with Deputy Public Prosecutor Sarah Ong that there were several aggravating factors. The circumstances in which the offences were committed were "inherently reprehensible" as Lee had abused his professional position as a doctor. Judge Lim said: "The fact that Dr Lee had repeated his act because the victim did not make a complaint against him after the June incident is clearly an aggravating factor."
He added that Lee had done a great disservice to the medical profession and felt Lee's medical problems were not severe enough to qualify his case as an exception. He said: "I am confident that our prisons will have the necessary medical facilities to attend to Dr Lee's medical problems."
Lee - a long-time contributor of motoring articles to The Straits Times' Life! section and Torque magazine - was convicted in March. He could have been jailed for up to two years and/or fined on each charge. He escapes caning as he is above 50 years old.
This article was first published on May 27, 2014.
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