SINGAPORE, July 24 — A committee appointed by the Singapore Medical Council (SMC) has lifted a suspension order against a doctor who last month was cleared of his criminal conviction for sexually assaulting a longtime patient, the council told TODAY today.
But it is now considering whether to bring disciplinary proceedings against Dr Wee Tong Boo, 69.
Last year, Dr Wee was convicted in the High Court of sexually assaulting and molesting a patient, now 27, in his Bedok clinic. The conviction was overturned by the Court of Appeal last month.
The High Court had sentenced Dr Wee to 10 years’ jail but he will no longer have to serve time behind bars after his acquittal in the apex court.
SMC’s suspension order was initially valid until October 21. The council had obtained it from an interim orders committee after Dr Wee’s High Court conviction.
The medical watchdog said today that it is studying the apex court’s judgment to determine its next actions in relation to Dr Wee’s professional conduct.
Dr Wee does not hold a practicing certificate now and will need to apply for one if he wishes to continue practicing medicine, SMC said. It did not elaborate on when his practicing certificate had lapsed.
“As deliberations are presently under way on whether disciplinary proceedings are to be brought against Dr Wee, the SMC seeks the public’s understanding that it is unable to comment at this juncture so as to avoid prejudicing any such proceedings,” it added.
On July 12, Dr Wee signed an undertaking that he would “observe the strictest standards expected of him in conducting clinic examinations” pending the outcome of SMC’s disciplinary process.
In accordance with SMC’s ethical code and ethical guidelines, Dr Wee will have to ensure a chaperone is present and that he is using gloves and proper lubricant during clinical exams.
This includes internal pelvic exams such as the one he had conducted on the patient in the sexual assault case.
The patient had accused Dr Wee of raping her during a late-night consultation at his clinic in Bedok on December 30, 2015. She was seeking treatment for gastric problems, frequent urination and an itch on her genitals.
She also accused him of molesting her in November that year.
During the High Court trial, Dr Wee testified that he had penetrated the patient with his fingers, but argued that he was only doing an internal pelvic exam, using his saliva as a lubricant.
Justice Chua Lee Ming rejected this defence but cleared Dr Wee of rape, accepting medical evidence that he had erectile dysfunction at the time of the alleged incidents.
Dr Wee’s version of events and his level of sexual function had come under scrutiny during the trial. Among other things, his wife testified that he could not have raped his patient as his penis was “soft like a noodle” even when stimulated.
Dr Wee also did not use a glove during the examination, and did not ask for a female chaperone to be present. He claimed that it was because he was “caught off guard” as the patient complained of a vaginal itch while lying on the examination bed, and not in the consultation room.
Three appeal judges in the apex court found many aspects of the patient’s testimony “incredible” or not persuasive.
They acquitted Dr Wee of sexual assault as the trial had run on a rape charge, and convicting him of the reduced charge was “highly prejudicial for any one of a number of reasons”.
Most importantly, the patient had claimed that she saw Dr Wee penetrating her with his penis, not his fingers.
Because of that, the prosecution could not argue for Dr Wee’s conviction on sexual assault by his fingers to be upheld.
Had Dr Wee been originally charged and tried for sexual assault, he would have conducted his defence differently as well, the judges said. — TODAY