SINGAPORE: A doctor has been suspended for nine months by a disciplinary court after being found guilty of taking photos and videos of men changing in swimming pool toilets.
Dr Aaron Gan Tau Ming, who was a senior resident at Singapore General Hospital at the time of the offences, pleaded guilty to 16 counts, said reasons for decision released by the Singapore Medical Council (SMC). Monday January 31.
He was sentenced to six weeks in prison and fined S$14,900.
The offenses took place from early 2016 to mid-2017 mainly in the toilets of the Tampines SAFRA swimming pool and the Queenstown swimming pool. While there, he took photos and videos of men in the shower area of the restroom.
The men were in various states of undress, and some were naked, depending on the motives. Dr. Gan took the photos and videos by holding his cell phone to his ear and pretending he was talking to someone while taking the photos and videos while pointing the camera at the victims.
A man alerted Tampines SAFRA pool security and the police were called.
The court heard that the videos and photos were only viewed by the doctor and were not in the public domain.
Of the 16 charges, 10 related to the taking of photographs, while four involved photos and videos. The remaining two offenses relate to making obscene videos.
SMC lawyer Ms Shalini Mogan requested a 12-month suspension for the doctor, given his “timely plea guilt”.
She said the case involved several similar offenses over a long period of time and involved “calculation and deliberation”.
Defense lawyers for Dr Gan, Ms Audrey Sim and Ms Joie Tan, said the offenses reflected his “moral failing” and that it had not impacted his professional duties, adding that there remained a “committed and exceptional doctor”.
They said there was “no evidence that the victims were emotionally harmed”, adding that there was no physical contact with the victims.
According to the reasons for the decision, Dr Gan faced “an immense sense of social isolation” and preferred to spend time alone. He was “working under repression” – described as a maladaptive psychological defense mechanism – as detailed in medical reports, his lawyers said.
“Put simply, he sought an alternate channel to express his homosexual orientation in order to keep his sexual orientation a secret,” according to the grounds.
A psychological medicine consultant assessed his mental state in 2019 and October 2021, Dr. Gan’s attorneys said, adding that they “collectively refer to the respondent’s voyeuristic behavior as conduct related to his avoid homosexual intimacy”.
They asked for a four-month suspension.
In response, the court said that Dr. Gan’s personal extenuating circumstances – in particular, the ridicule of his classmates and co-workers resulting from their insinuations about his sexual orientation, “certainly call for understanding”.
But they added that it had ‘little relevance’ to the proceedings.
“Almost without exception, every human being struggles at different times and to varying degrees with personal circumstances,” the court said, according to its reasons.
“A doctor’s call demands that he overcome his struggle without harming others. If he is not able to do so, then let him have the courage to find help to meet the challenge.
“There is indeed no shame to be had and everything to be gained from understanding one’s sexual orientation and ensuring that it is expressed in a way that does not compromise the interests of others.”
Calling competence and reliability the ‘cornerstones of the practice of medicine’, they said he was ‘charged daily’ with respecting his patients’ bodies.
These acts were committed for the “sole purpose of satisfying his needs” and that he “defiled the sanctity of the body he was sworn to protect, heal and restore.”
“It is almost impossible to gather evidence of the emotional stress suffered by victims of these types of offenses because it may not be obvious in the short term and many may be embarrassed to talk about it,” the court said.
While acknowledging that Dr. Gan is a “young doctor” who has “a long way to go in medical practice”, they added that a signal must be clear that behavior that “compromises body and mind others” will not be tolerated.
The court also heard that he had resigned from service at Singapore General Hospital and had “already paid the price of his career”.
“He is ready to take action to meet his challenges and did not hesitate to plead guilty. We acknowledge his remorse and salute his determination,” the court said.
In addition to being suspended for nine months, he must work with a psychiatrist of his choice to “remedy the behavior detailed in the charges” to avoid similar behavior when he returns to duty.
Dr Gan was also ordered to pay the costs and expenses of the proceedings.