HOBART, Tasmania: A doctor will begin his suspension from practice in Australia on Tuesday (Apr 30) after he posted "inappropriate and offensive statements" on online forums, including Singapore's HardwareZone.com.
Dr Christopher Lee Kwan Chen will not be able to practise for the next six weeks, following disciplinary hearings by the Tasmanian Health Practitioners Tribunal in March. The tribunal released its decision on Apr 16, stating that the 31-year-old will start his suspension period two weeks after the decision.
Dr Lee, who worked as an emergency doctor at the Box Hill Hospital in Victoria, was found to have posted offensive comments online between 2016 and 2018.
Eastern Health, which governs Box Hill Hospital, said in response to Facebook posts over the weekend that it has initiated a review into the implications of the tribunal findings and Dr Lee will not be returning to work until the completion of this investigation.
"At Eastern Health we value diversity, inclusivity and living together respectfully and do not tolerate disrespectful comments or racism in any form," it wrote.
The tribunal heard Dr Lee, who used the online pseudonym Nachtsider, had posted photos of himself in medical attire and with the degrees he obtained from the University of Melbourne.
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Most of the comments were published on the Singapore online forum HardwareZone in December 2016 and were made "in the context of a socio-political situation in Singapore/Malaysia" in response to "disparaging remarks" made by a local female student about servicemen.
"I beg to differ. This kind will NEVER learn. She needs to be abandoned in India and repeatedly raped in order for her to wake up her idea," Dr Lee said in one of his posts, on Dec 9, 2016.
Another comment on Dec 10 read: "What would you rather me say, hmm? That hers was a misguided outburst? That she should be let off the hook? Well that ain’t my style, mister. If I don’t like you, there won't be any kid gloves. Some women deserve to be raped, and that supercilious little ***** fits the bill in every way."
Commenting on an article about an Egyptian lawyer who was sentenced to three years' jail for saying that women who wear ripped jeans should be raped in punishment, Dr Lee posted on Dec 3, 2017: "I’m surprised they didn’t give him a medal instead."
Dr Lee admitted during the tribunal hearing that he had written and published all of the posts.
In his joint submission, he claimed he was "relatively young and inexperienced" when he posted the comments, and that he had "a brash and opinionated bent on his conduct on social media".
"It is agreed he did not fully appreciate that posting comments on a Singaporean online forum would have consequences on his (practice) of medicine in Australia," the tribunal wrote in their report.
A joint submission by the Medical Board of Australia and Dr Lee stressed that the doctor has not permitted his socio-political and other personal views "to colour or influence his medical practice".
He has also "never been discriminatory or derogatory towards the groups of individuals that his comments are alleged to be inflammatory of".
Regarding the posts published in December 2016, "he concedes (that) anger with the content of her posts" had “clouded” his judgement and agreed to stay away from such forums in the future.
In a letter of support, Dr Lee's supervisor, Dr Weeraratne said the 31-year-old had "excellent knowledge, clinical skills, patient care and advocacy and leadership".
Dr Weeraratne, the director of Emergency Medicine Training at Latrobe Regional Hospital and Knox Private Hospital in Victoria, described Dr Lee as "warm, engaging and affable and has excellent communication skills" who is also "professional and punctual" and with "excellent work ethic".
"Dr Weeraratne is fully aware of the conduct the respondent has admitted to having attended the conciliation with him," the tribunal wrote in their report.
The board agreed that the online posts conveyed "socially unacceptable and extreme sentiments which are disrespectful of women" and comment upon violence towards or sexual abuse of women.
"Some of the online posts might reasonably be interpreted as being racially discriminatory and contrary to acceptable social norms in Australia," the board said.
"All of the online posts had the potential to incite radical views, antagonise the reader and they had the potential to cause harm to the public.
"In addition, some of the posts involved the use of vulgar language, expressions of committing violence and crime, all of which are inconsistent with the good repute of medical practitioners and the relationship of trust between medical practitioners and patients who are, of course, members of the public."
The tribunal acknowledged that the online posts were not made "in the course of practising medicine" and had been posted after hours.
“Despite this, there is a clear nexus between the posts and the respondent’s profession as he identified himself as a medical practitioner and his assertion that he is a medical practitioner was supported by several photographs he posted on the same online forum," the tribunal wrote.
It added that doctors of good repute would deem his conduct as "disgraceful and dishonourable".
Dr Lee is also required to undertake education on ethical behavior and communications, particularly in the use of social media.
"It is clear that by making the online posts the respondent breached the Code (of conduct) and the social media policy," the tribunal said.
It is not the first time Dr Lee has been disciplined. The Australian Medical Board issued him a caution after he accessed the health records of a patient at Royal Hobart Hospital on 21 occasions between July 2015 and December 2016 "without consent or clinical need".