A doctor has been struck off after repeatedly saying in online posts that women deserved to be raped and posting “gruesome” images of dead people and victims of violence.
Dr Christopher Kwan Chen Lee also shared identifiable patient images and private health records as well as intimate images of his wife which he posted without her permission between 2016 and 2019.
Then a junior emergency department doctor at hospitals in Victoria and Tasmania, he was suspended under emergency powers in June 2019 following complaints about the posts on Facebook and a Singaporean internet forum.
The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal heard his posts included images of bodies with missing limbs, deceased foetuses, a small girl who had died after a head injury and one of a mangled skull with the comment: “I don’t know about you, but I’m hungry.”
He also made a series of misogynistic, derogatory and racist comments on the forum, including several where he called for women to be “slashed” and another where he said he could “easily” kick a handicapped person in the head.
Dr Lee, now 35, had been prolific on the forums, where he made multiple references to his work as a doctor and regularly offered flippant medical advice to other users.
He wrote that professional standards did not apply to his comments because “[other users] are retarded if they think an Australian employee can lose his job over something that occurred in a Singaporean forum”.
But in findings handed down this month, the tribunal found him guilty of professional misconduct, banning him from reapplying for registration until at least December 2023.
The Medical Board of Australia had argued for a longer cancellation, saying Dr Lee should not be allowed to practice until June 2025 at the earliest.
This reflected his extreme comments, as a general and specific deterrent, and the need to protect the reputation of the profession, lawyers for the board argued.
However, the tribunal found that given his relative youth and “reasonable level of insight and remorse”, a total ban of 4.5 years was appropriate.
His diagnosis with Autism Spectrum Disorder at the time of his suspension was another mitigating factor, the tribunal said.
It noted a forensic psychiatrist appointed by the board had found Dr Lee’s problematic internet use was “causally linked”, to both his ASD and long standing poor self-esteem.
As a result, he could safely return to supervised practice with ongoing psychological treatment, the psychiatrist said.
Admitting his autism was “not a complete excuse”, Dr Lee said he now saw the error of his ways.
“The content I posted was antagonistic and derogatory — it conveyed a bigoted mindset, a lack of empathy and integrity, and a disregard for both patient privacy and the sanctity of human life,” he told the tribunal.
“I now realise how humiliating and demeaning the messages were that I posted.
“I previously justified my online behaviour on the grounds that I did not permit these postings to colour my clinical practice and workplace performance.
“I now appreciate that there is simply no justification for my online behaviour.”
The tribunal stressed Dr Lee still had a long way to go, adding he “still needs to complete his journey of rehabilitation and demonstrate that he is again a fit and proper person to resume practice”.
But it said there were hopes he could make a successful return to work in early 2024.
It added: “He has proactively engaged with his psychiatrist and psychologists to understand the factors that lead to his (mis)conduct… and has built strategies to manage his ASD and avoid repeating his abhorrent conduct.”
Medical Board of Australia chair Dr Anne Tonkin welcomed the decision.
“Doctors are respected and trusted members of the community,” she said in a statement.
“When that trust is eroded by unacceptable and abhorrent conduct, whether in person or online, that can have serious consequences for patient safety.”