Posted on 12 November 2015.
EXCLUSIVE: A Royal Perth Hospital doctor who – during a self-initiated house call – lay on the floor beside a patient, kissed her breasts, and later groped them and her torso as she protested, has been found guilty of professional misconduct.
In a written decision published yesterday, a three-member panel chaired by State Administrative Tribunal President Jeremy Curthoys found that on May 30 last year Dr Premanandan Veettill “groped the patient’s breasts and torso” after he had pulled her over to a chair and sat her on his lap.
Immediately before that, Dr Veettill had asked the patient, who was experiencing severe back pain, to remove her top and bra and lie on the floor.
“I did what Dr Vayal Veettill asked as I trusted him as a doctor,” the patient explained in written evidence.
“I got down on the rug on the floor.
“I expected that Dr Vayal Veettill was going to give me a medical examination.”
Dr Veettill then lay down on the floor next to her.
“I felt very uncomfortable because he was too close and I could smell his body odour and breath,” the patient asserted.
“I could see patches of dampness from perspiration under the arms of his shirt.”
Dr Veettill put his left ear between the woman’s breasts, and told her he was trying to hear her heartbeat.
He then fondled and groped her breasts with his hands, and kissed her breasts and nipples.
“I was in shock, and didn’t know what to do,” the patient recalled.
She said: “No, no, no”, before being pulled over to the chair after again saying “no” when Dr Veettill asked her to join him.
‘WHAT ARE YOU DOING?’
While sitting on Dr Veettill’s lap, the patient repeatedly said words to the effect of: “No” and “What are you doing?”
“He wouldn’t let me go, and was holding on very tightly,” the patient explained.
“He was rubbing his groin area against me while I kept saying ‘no’ and kept struggling to get away from him.
“I was trying to pull away from him to get off him.
“I was trying to escape from his hold on me.
“I didn’t know what was going to happen next.
“I was really scared and fearful that he could do worse and no one would be able to hear me as I was alone with him in my own home.
“I managed to struggle away from him.
“I grabbed and put my top back on.
“I was in shock and I was trying to get calm and compose myself in order to handle the situation and make sure it didn’t escalate.
“I remember him having this distinct smirk on his face that I will never forget.
“He had calmed down.
“I asked him to leave.
“He still asked me to give him a hug after what he had just done to me.
“I just said ‘no’, but he came up and hugged me anyway.
“He towered over me because he is so much taller than me.
“Even after I said ‘no’, he just did it anyway.
“He behaved as if nothing had happened.
“He was dismissive and he showed no remorse for what he had just done to me.
‘WENT ON AND ON ABOUT IT’
Dr Veettill recalled differently, with his written evidence saying his patient said words to the effect of: “You are a good boy. I will kick you out if you misbehave”.
The woman denied this, and the tribunal accepted her evidence over his.
After the house call, the patient contacted the Sexual Assault Resource Centre and her local GP.
Dr Veettill admitted he had no professional or clinical reason to contact the woman on May 30, or indeed any time after an initial house call on March 10, 2014.
He claimed that further visits he made to the patient: “were in the context of a social relationship which he had developed … outside of a therapeutic relationship”.
However, in evidence preferred by the tribunal, the patient explained that Dr Veettill told her he needed to come over to refer her to a sleep specialist. She told him that she did not have the energy to cook dinner let alone see him again. Dr Veettill said he would bring something over for her to eat.
The patient explained that Dr Veettill “went on and on about it” and she gave in.
When Dr Veettill arrived, the patient and he sat at the dining room table and ate. Dr Veettill told her she needed to lose weight. As he was said this, he was grabbing and pinching at her.
In evidence deemed inferior to the patient’s, Dr Veettill submitted she had told him: “You are caring. You know how to care. Bring me romance”, and that the conversation continued in a similar vein.
Dr Veettill was also found guilty of unsatisfactory professional performance for breaching professional boundaries over a range of related matters.
At the time of his house calls, Dr Veettill was employed by Royal Perth Hospital. However, when visiting her it was in the employ of the Australian Locum Medical Service for which he was doing after-hours work.
Justice Curthoys and his colleagues ordered the Medical Board of Australia, which brought the case to tribunal, to file and serve submissions on penalty by November 24.
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