An emergency doctor who shared images of his patients online without their consent and made racist, sexist and derogatory remarks online, including saying “some women deserve to be raped,” has been disqualified from working as a doctor until late 2023.
The Medical Board of Australia suspended Dr Christopher Kwan Chen Lee’s registration in 2019, after an investigation into posts he made on online forums.
On Monday, the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (Vcat) published a decision to cancel Lee’s medical registration and disqualify him from reapplying for registration until 9 December 2023.
Lee was suspended from working by the Tasmanian health practitioners tribunal for six weeks in early 2019, after he admitted to posting a series of sexist and racist remarks online.
The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency then launched an investigation into Lee’s conduct after Guardian Australia revealed Lee’s offensive remarks went far beyond those considered by the tribunal, and included sharing images of dead bodies, videos of fatal car crashes and sexually explicit photos of his wife.
Lee also posted his handwritten medical notes online, including a photo of the gangrenous foot of a patient he described as “thoroughly septic”, as well as details about that patient’s mental health, age and treatments.
He wrote on the forum, which was hosted in Singapore, that his online comments did not matter, because: “Aussies don’t care about what goes on in a separate forum in another country.”
The Vcat decision said that Lee, who also worked in a hospital in Victoria, had his registration cancelled for conduct it described as “outrageous” and “far beyond the standards expected” of the profession.
Lee admitted to the tribunal that he made the posts, agreed they were “utterly unacceptable”, and agreed that his conduct amounted to professional misconduct and that he should be reprimanded. However, he disagreed with the Medical Board of Australia’s submission that his registration should be cancelled.
The tribunal described its decision as difficult but agreed with Lee that his previously untreated autism spectrum disorder (ASD) had played a role in his conduct.
“On the one hand, the conduct is so outrageous and so far beyond the standards expected of – and the trust reposed in – the medical practitioners, that it is hard to see that Dr Lee could ever successfully return to practice in a manner that would assuage community concern and protect the reputation of the medical profession,” the Vcat decision said.
“On the other hand, there is little doubt in our mind … that his ASD is now being treated and managed effectively and, given his relatively young age , it would be unfortunate if he were never able to return to practice.”
The tribunal found that while it was necessary to cancel Lee’s registration, the total disqualification period should be four and a half years, backdated to June 2019 when he was last allowed to practise.
The Medical Board of Australia chair, Anne Tonkin, said she welcomed the outcome.
“Doctors are respected and trusted members of the community,” she said.
“When that trust is eroded by unacceptable and abhorrent conduct, whether in person or online, that can have serious consequences for patient safety.”