SINGAPORE: A doctor who indecently exposed himself to a woman on a bus has been suspended from practice.
Dr Azman Osman, a doctor with more than 23 years standing, faced a charge of professional misconduct brought by the Singapore Medical Council (SMC) after he was convicted in July 2017 of insulting the modesty of a woman.
In their grounds of decision made available on Tuesday (Jul 13), a disciplinary tribunal ruled that Dr Azman should be suspended for four months.
On Jul 10, 2016 at about 1.15pm, the doctor was on board an SBS bus when he unzipped his trousers before a 56-year-old woman, and exposed his underwear and groin.
The disciplinary tribunal said Dr Azman claimed trial despite being offered a choice of a warning by a police officer.
“He maintained his belief that he was justified in his actions due to the provocation of the 56-year-old victim,” the grounds said.
“According to (Dr Azman), he believed that the victim … was a prostitute and he felt provoked by her attire as she was wearing a pair of shorts so revealing that she had exposed her underwear to (him) while sitting and facing him on the SBS bus.
“Therefore, in retaliation to the perceived provocation, he decided to expose his underwear to the victim.”
He was convicted in court on Jul 18, 2017 after a trial and was sentenced to two weeks’ imprisonment.
About six months later, the SMC informed Dr Azman that the matter was being referred to the disciplinary tribunal. He initially disagreed with the charge brought by the SMC, but eventually expressed “sincere remorse” for his actions after receiving legal advice. He also pleaded guilty to the charge.
The tribunal referred the matter to a health committee to determine if Dr Azman was fit to practise as a doctor or if he might be impaired by a medical condition.
The tribunal said his reasoning for exposing himself to the woman was “bizarre” and that the doctor may “continue with similar reasoning” when attending to patients.
At a hearing in Oct 2018, the tribunal noted that Dr Azman “appeared detached” from the proceedings and it appeared he had a “rather sensitive and labile personality that may be subject to mood swings”.
An inquiry by the health committee found that the fitness of Dr Azman to practise was not impaired by reason of his mental condition. Furthermore, the committee observed that he was able to explain his behaviour in a “rational and cogent manner”.
“Even though (Dr Azman) held very strong religious views which may have affected the way he reacted, these values would not impair his ability to practise as a medical practitioner or to deal with his patients in an appropriate manner,” said the tribunal.
In asking for a six- to nine-month suspension, the SMC said Dr Azman demonstrated no insight into the “objectionable nature of his conduct” nor showed any remorse for his actions.
The act of exposing himself was intentional and an act of retaliation, the council added. It also asked that Dr Azman should only undertake consultations on female patients with a chaperone present, except in an emergency.
Dr Azman exposing his underwear and groin to the woman was a “deliberate and calculated move, not a momentary lapse of judgement”, said the SMC, adding that he had “brazenly refused” to zip up his trousers despite being asked to by the victim and the bus driver.
During the trial, the doctor cast “baseless aspersions” on the victim and tried to portray himself as the victim, claiming he was provoked by the victim’s attire, the tribunal heard.
The council said Dr Azman “remained recalcitrant” even after serving two weeks’ imprisonment as he had initially maintained that his actions were justified.
In defence, Dr Azman’s lawyer said the doctor had committed a “one-off offence” and that it was not a premeditated act.
He highlighted Dr Azman’s “long unblemished” track record and said he had pleaded guilty once he had legal advice.
The tribunal said the manner in which he contested his criminal charge was “incompatible with the standards of moral integrity expected from members of the medical profession”.
“The harm to the victim was ‘slight’ since there was no physical contact with the victim and no evidence of permanent harm caused even though the act had caused some emotional distress to the victim,” the tribunal said in its ruling.
Taking into account Dr Azman’s state of mind during the offence, the tribunal called it a “calculated and deliberate act”.
“There was no medical evidence before the DT to suggest that (Dr Azman) was suffering from any mental condition which would reduce his culpability. He knew what he was doing and he fully intended his action to upset the victim as an act of retaliation,” the tribunal said, adding that he was not “truly remorseful”.
Besides the suspension, Dr Azman will be censured and must give a written undertaking to the SMC that he will not engage in similar conduct in the future. He will also pay the costs and expenses of and incidental to the proceedings.