SCMP Saturday, November 18, 2000

Top anaesthetist found guilty of indecent assault


A prominent anaesthetist's career lay in tatters yesterday after he was sentenced to six months' jail for twice molesting a female patient.
Father-of-two Cheung Kai-shuen, 45, was found guilty in Western Court of two counts of indecent assault, which took place five years ago. He was cleared of indecently assaulting another woman.
Cheung is believed to be the first anaesthetist to be convicted of sexually assaulting a patient in the course of his work.
Magistrate Katherine Lo Kit-yee said she had no option but to jail Cheung, who had pleaded not guilty.
But she granted him bail pending an appeal. Police are now investigating further allegations that have been levelled against Cheung since the trial began.
The court had heard that Cheung, who started his career in 1988, touched the 32-year-old Japanese woman's groin and breasts on May 20 and 21, 1995, at the Adventist Hospital.
The victim - who cannot be named for legal reasons - had given birth to a daughter a day before the first offence.
The magistrate accepted a defence suggestion that the offence was out of character and was a single fall from grace for Cheung. "I accept he will not repeat the offence, which resulted in the loss of his career," she said. Ms Lo noted that Cheung was highly respected in his profession, with a previously unblemished record, and that he and his family had suffered embarrassment since the matter was exposed.
Pleading for leniency, Cheung's lawyer, Cheng Huan, SC, said: "The incident has been exposed to the media. One knows how damaging it is, especially in Hong Kong. His career is ruined. That must be the greatest punishment."
Mr Cheng said the publicity had dragged on for nine months since Cheung was arrested in February.
Outside court, Detective Senior Inspector Eddie Wai Mu-lam said the hardest task in bringing Cheung to justice was finding a qualified expert to testify in court that what he had done to the patient could be deemed medically unnecessary.
Cheung was originally charged with seven counts of indecent assault, involving five alleged victims.
One of the charges was dropped at the start of the trial as the complainant was not available to testify.
Two more charges were dismissed after one of the complainants said she could not be sure Cheung was the man who allegedly groped her.
And Cheung was cleared of another charge involving a third woman in the middle of the trial. Ms Lo also acquitted him of a charge involving a fourth woman.
In finding Cheung guilty, she said the main issue was whether Cheung's actions were medically necessary. She considered they were not.
Ms Lo accepted there were different views among doctors and anaesthetists on how to manage patients, but she said she found Cheung's act was "medically unnecessary".
"As a highly experienced, authorised anaesthetist, it's unlikely he would make an error of judgment on two consecutive days," the magistrate said. She said she found the victim credible and reliable.