Medical board appears unmoved by psychiatrist's justifications for sex with patient

November 19, 2011 comment: It is hard to believe that the attorney for psychiatrist Dinesh Singh could have expected the Health Professions Council of South Africa (which suspended Singh's license for 12 months due to his sexual affair with the female patient) to set aside the suspension of Singh's license based on the arguments that:

  • Singh didn't initiate the relationship.
  • Singh is a father of two and the sole income source in his household.
  • That at the time he became involved with the patient, it was because he was vulnerable, due to the recent loss of his own wife.

These are some of the same (lame) arguments used by psychiatrists and psychologists worldwide to make it seem acceptable that they had sex with a patient or patients. But there is no justification for sexually exploiting a patient who came to you for help with their own problems--that's why the ethical codes that govern the conduct of psychologists and psychiatrists specifically prohibit sex with current and former patients.



DURBAN psychiatrist Dinesh Singh should have acted as the “bigger” person in keeping his relationship with a patient he had an affair with strictly professional, Moeti Kanyane, the attorney for the Health Professions Council of South Africa, argued at Singh’s appeal hearing yesterday.

In February, Singh, who practises at Life Entabeni Hospital and at Durdoc Medical Centre in the Durban city centre, was found guilty of unprofessional conduct and handed a 12-month suspension for having a sexual relationship with a patient in 2009.

Singh pleaded guilty to the charge but has appealed against his sentence.

Representing Singh, advocate Jean Marais SC argued that the sentence was too harsh for a man who was a father of two young boys and a breadwinner. He said although the offence was serious, the sentence should be suspended.

Marais said the disciplinary committee should consider that Singh had no previous convictions, that he had pleaded guilty and that, should he be suspended for 12 months, his patients would suffer.

He said the woman in question had initiated the relationship and that, at time of the relationship, Singh had been vulnerable as he had just lost his wife.

“The patient played an active role in pursuing the relationship,” he said.

Kanyane said the appeal against the sentence was “unfortunate” because it was too lenient. He said the committee should understand the seriousness of the charge and that the doctor had acted unprofessionally.

“The work of a psychiatrist is to diagnose and treat a mental disorder; this makes his patients vulnerable.”

Kanyane said Singh should have known better than to have a relationship with a patient and should have been the “bigger” person in dealing with his feelings towards the woman.

He said the argument that the woman had initiated the relationship was not tenable because Singh was not charged with initiating a relationship, but for taking part in it.

“I do not think that his sentence was harsh. In my view, the sentence was lenient.”

The Committee's decision will be makde known on December 13.


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