By Priscilla Dielenberg
GEORGE TOWN: Surgeons must obtain the consent of their female patients before taking photographs of their intimate parts, ruled a High Court in what is believed to be a landmark decision.
Judicial Commissioner Chew Soo Ho said this in allowing a claim for invasion of privacy filed by freelance writer Lee Ewe Poh, 50, against general and colorectal surgeon Dr Lim Teik Mau and Loh Guan Lye & Sons Sdn Bhd.
The judge yesterday awarded Lee a nominal RM25,000 (S$10,780) in damages with costs of RM10,000. He also ordered that Dr Lim's memory card (from his digital camera) be destroyed by the High Court Deputy Registrar in the presence of both Lee and Dr Lim.
Besides finding that women have the right to determine whether their intimate parts can be photographed during surgical procedures, the judgment also affirms that invasion of privacy is a cause for action in Malaysia.
Lee, a former journalist, said she was glad that her case would benefit other Malaysian women in similar situations.
In her claim, Lee said she underwent a procedure known as stapler haemorrhoidectomy at the Loh Guan Lye Specialists Centre here on Dec 21, 2006.
She felt violated when she discovered six days later that Dr Lim had taken photographs of her intimate parts without her consent while she was under anaesthetic.
Dr Lim said it was common and acceptable medical practice to take photographs of patients under sedation, and that he took the photographs with the intention to help the patient understand the procedure.
In his judgment, JC Chew noted that the testimony of Dr Lim's witness, leading consultant colorectal and general surgeon Dr Mohamed Akhtar Qureshi, was favourable to the plaintiff.
He said Dr Akhtar testified that it was acceptable practice to photograph a patient under sedation, but went on to say that the right to decide if the photographs could be taken rested solely on the patient who must be warned in advance.
Lee was represented by counsel K. Simon Murali, while T. Sagadaven and Ramsun Ho represented Dr Lim and the hospital respectively.