10 Feb 2021
A tribunal has cancelled a medical practitioner’s registration for professional boundary violations and disqualified him from applying for registration for six years.
Dr Conway Lee was also reprimanded by the Victorian Civil Administrative Tribunal (the tribunal) which made findings of both professional misconduct and unprofessional conduct.
The Medical Board of Australia (the Board) referred Dr Lee to the tribunal after two male patients alleged sexualised and/or inappropriate examinations of their genitals in 2017.
Dr Lee was working at a clinic with a major focus on men’s sexual health and HIV medicine. As a result, he saw almost entirely male patients.
In addition to the three allegations of professional misconduct due to the professional boundary violations, the Board also alleged unprofessional misconduct for an inappropriate conversation with one of the patients on the social media platform Grindr.
Dr Lee denied all allegations. The Board made an order in July 2018 that Dr Lee be prohibited from having contact with any male patients.
After all evidence was heard at a hearing in December 2019, including expert evidence, the tribunal said it was satisfied that the alleged conduct had occurred and that all four allegations were proven.
The tribunal stated that patients with particular needs relating to sexual health, including preventing and treating sexually transmitted diseases, are a particularly vulnerable cohort.
‘Genital examinations are amongst the most sensitive medical procedures a practitioner may be called upon to carry out. Hence the very highest level of trust is required from patients to submit to these, and the highest level of responsibility is associated with them.'
The tribunal said the medical treatment was not in a hospital, where numerous other health professionals are generally present, making for a much higher chance of possible detection.
Because the conduct was carried out under the guise of medical treatment by a general practitioner in his private consulting room it was an environment that Dr Lee largely controlled and in which, as the medical practitioner, he had full authority.
The tribunal stated that while Dr Lee’s conduct did not have a direct serious impact on his patients, it did affect the trust patients have in their doctors, particularly patients from the LGBTI community, and particularly patients concerned about sensitive personal sexual issues.
Read the tribunal’s decision on the AustLII website.