Dr Sabi Lal – The Rapist Doctor is Back and Practicing
Posted by caitlinate on October 29, 2008
In 2002 “Doctor” Sabi Lal was found guilty of assaulting two pharmaceutical representatives (referred to as Ms DE and Ms PQ) who had visited his clinic. He was given a $1000 fine for each assault and convictions were recorded. He was also charged with digitally raping a patient six years earlier (referred to as Ms CD), indecently assaulting her and then attempting to pervert the course of justice. For these charges he was given a two and a half year suspended sentence. Several other assaults or problematic behaviours were reported to the police or the Medical Practitioners Board, including: inappropriate comments of a social, personal and sexual nature during consultations, inappropriate personal contact outside the consultations and misuse of information during the consultations, calling the mother of a child he was treating and asking her on a date and visiting a female patients house uninvited.
In his submissions to the Medical Practioners board a year later Lal claimed that the assaults were “at the very minor end of the spectrum of assault”. His counsel also claimed that there was “no infliction of physical harm by Dr Lal, that there was no evidence of force, that there was no aggression, no threat and no abuse and no physical pain.”
I tend to disagree. Strongly. In the case of the assaults he invited the pharmaceutical reps into his consulting room, interrogated them about their relationships, invited them on dates and then - when they refused – persisted with his questioning. In the case of Ms PQ he grabbed her by her upper arms and waist when she tried to leave the room and then followed her to the car park insisting they go for ‘a drive’. When Ms DE attempted to leave the room he grabbed her by the shoulders and attempted to kiss her. When she again tried to get away from him and leave the room he pulled her hand away from the door handle and leant against the door so she couldn’t leave. She finally managed to pull the door open and escape, where she ran to her car, locked it and sat there sobbing. What person could describe any of the above as lacking in aggression, threat, abuse or force? He restrained the women physically and engaged in sexual conduct of a kind that certainly wasn’t welcome or consented to.
Lal’s counsel also stated that both instances were “one-off” occurences. That doesn’t even make sense. How can a one-off occurence happen multiple times? Do they really expect anyone to believe that because this guy ‘impulsively’ grabs and intimidates women repeatedly we should exercise lenience in morally condemning him?
Well, at least he admitted that in the case of the rape: “it was wrong to perform the Pap smear if the patient were led to believe a female doctor would be doing it and he should not have gone ahead and done the smear.” I’d prefer to have heard that he recognised his actions constituted rape. That he was aware this woman would be traumatised for the rest of her life. That he probably endangered her long term physical health by causing her to not only be terrified of having pap smears in the future but also potentially avoiding them as a result. However, if he took the rap for his charges, engaged with mental health professionals to understand the errors of his ways, undertook volunteer work at an organisation aimed at providing support services for victims of sexual assault and agreed to never, ever practice medicine again I would maybe have some respect for his efforts to rehabilitate himself.
But wait… What is that I hear? Continued injustice lurking in the wings?
Yes! This week the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) ruled that Sabi Lal be reinstated to the medical register and be allowed to resume seeing and treating patients. Despite the fact that even the Medical Practitioners Board still considers him unfit to practice VCAT claims that they have implemented strict conditions on him and that these should, apparently, limit his capacity to reoffend. He is not allowed to treat females or anyone under the age of 16. He will be strictly supervised and monitored. The fact that he has previously been subject to similar conditions and then offended again within a year of them being lifted seems to be of little concern. To quote the VCAT panel:
“We are not persuaded that Mr Lal’s suitability to practise is likely to be affected because of the offences of which he has been found guilty”
Raping and assaulting women who visit his practice doesn’t persuade them they he shouldn’t be allowed to hold a position of power or influence?
Nor are they concerned by the fact that Lal has apparently shown a deep lack of empathy or remorse for his previous actions; nor by the fact that he has regular relapses of obsessive compulsive disorder (the disorder he blamed all the assaults he perpetrated on). They referred to his disorder and the previous assaults as “character flaws”.
This man raped a woman and assaulted two others. Numerous other women have come forward and complained of assault and harassment. How do we react? We charge him $2000. We give him a suspended sentence. We let him continue practicing medicine.
The gross injustice of the legal system in cases of rape and sexual assault will never cease to disgust and astonish me.