S'porean doctor suspended 4 months for exposing underwear & groin to woman on bus

The offence took place in 2016.

Syahindah Ishak | July 14, 2021, 10:22 PM

Azman Osman, a Singaporean doctor of more than 23 years, has been suspended from practice for four months for insulting the modesty of a woman.

Besides the suspension, Azman will be censured and must give a written undertaking to the Singapore Medical Council (SMC) that he will not repeat such actions in the future, according to the grounds of decision by a disciplinary tribunal appointed by the SMC.

Azman has also been ordered to pay the costs and expenses of the disciplinary proceedings.

His offence

On July 10, 2016, while on board an SBS bus, Azman unzipped his pants and exposed his underwear and groin to a 56-year-old female passenger.

He was subsequently convicted after claiming trial, and was jailed for two weeks in 2017.

Disciplinary tribunal in 2018

In January 2018, SMC informed Azman that the matter was being referred to the disciplinary tribunal.

Initially, Azman disagreed with the charge brought by SMC.

However, after receiving legal advice, he expressed "sincere remorse" for his actions and pleaded guilty to one charge of professional misconduct.

He claimed he was provoked by the woman

According to the disciplinary tribunal, Azman believed that the victim was a prostitute.

He also felt "provoked" by her attire as she was wearing a pair of revealing shorts that exposed her underwear while she was sitting and facing him on the bus.

Therefore, in retaliation to the perceived provocation, he decided to expose his underwear to the victim.

Azman had also escalated matters by claiming trial despite being offered a choice of a warning by a police officer.

Fitness to practise not impaired by mental condition

The tribunal stated that his reasoning for exposing himself to the woman was "bizarre" and that he may "continue with similar reasoning" when attending to patients.

Therefore, it referred the matter to a health committee to determine if Azman was fit to practise as a doctor or if he might be impaired by a medical condition.

The health committee conducted an inquiry in July 2020 and found that Azman's fitness to practise was not impaired by his mental condition.

The committee also observed that he was able to "explain his behaviour in a rational and cogent manner".

"Even though [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."

SMC argued for a longer suspension

Lawyers for SMC argued for Azman to be suspended for six to nine months. They also asked for Azman to engage in clinical practice only under supervision.

They wanted Azman to see female patients with a chaperone present, unless it's an emergency.

They also stated that Azman's action towards the victim was a "deliberate and calculated move, not a momentary lapse of judgment".

The lawyers noted that Azman had "brazenly refused" to zip up his pants after being asked to do so by the victim and the bus driver.

Additionally, Azman was "belligerent" and "casted baseless aspersions on the victim" in an attempt to portray himself as the victim by claiming he was provoked by the woman's attire.

Doctor's lawyer argued that it was a one-off offence

Azman’s lawyer, Noor Mohamed Marican, argued that there was no actual harm caused to the victim, and that the offence did not undermine public confidence in the medical profession.

He also argued that Azman's action was a "one-off offence", and that he had a "long unblemished track record".

The decision

In coming to its decision, the disciplinary tribunal said it was satisfied that Azman’s criminal conviction implied a defect in character, which makes him unfit for his profession.

"We agreed with the SMC that [Azman's] behaviour which led to the commission of the offence as well as the manner in which he had contested the criminal charge were incompatible with the standards of moral integrity expected from members of the medical profession."

The tribunal also took into account Azman's state of mind when he committed the offence, and said that his actions were "calculated and deliberate".

"There was no medical evidence before the [disciplinary tribunal] to suggest that [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."

However, the tribunal also noted that 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 took into account the circumstances of this case as well as Azman's seniority in the medical practice, and ruled that a four-month suspension would be "appropriate to reflect the gravity of the misconduct and to uphold the reputation of and confidence in the medical profession".

Top photos via Getty Images & Public Transport Hub/FB.