'It was humiliating': Doctor acquitted of molestation charges tells of painful experience
SINGAPORE — Throughout a brutal four-year legal process, there were some points when Dr Yeo Sow Nam felt that it was almost impossible to clear his name.
- Dr Yeo, 52, said that he never had “the slightest doubt” that he would be vindicated
- Describing his experience, he recalled being stopped at customs and the humiliation of being handcuffed
- Dr Yeo and his wife also had to fork out more than S$600,000 for his legal expenses
- Discussions are underway with his counsel on whether to take legal action against the complainant
SINGAPORE — Throughout a brutal four-year legal process, there were moments when Dr Yeo Sow Nam felt that it was almost impossible to clear his name.
It all started in mid-October 2017, when a police officer called him out of the blue and said a woman had alleged that he molested her four times at his clinic a week ago.
This was on Oct 9 — just another “very busy” day of seeing patients and business contacts in the pain management clinic that he runs at Mount Elizabeth Medical Centre.
Dr Yeo was shocked to hear this. Neither he nor his nurses even remembered who the complainant was until he was summoned to the police station and pressed about the allegations.
Then began the investigations, being charged with the offences and going to trial. On Monday (Aug 16), the anaesthetist was acquitted of all charges when the prosecution decided to drop them.
Dr Yeo’s lawyers had managed to get the complainant to confess several times that she had lied while testifying in court.
Closed-circuit television footage from the corridor leading to his consultation room, where she claimed some of the molestations had taken place, also helped his defence.
The 33-year-old woman’s identity and occupation cannot be disclosed due to a court order, which covers her relationship to Dr Yeo. The court previously heard that she was not a patient, employee or fellow doctor.
In an interview with TODAY after the acquittal, Dr Yeo, 52, said that he never had “the slightest doubt” that he would be vindicated.
“However, along the way, before this ultimate decision of dropping charges mid-trial, it was painful. I was stopped at customs (over passport issues), asked to report to the police and procedurally, they had to handcuff me before I was bailed out,” he recounted, his expression grave as he sat behind his desk in his clinic.
“It was humiliating; a lot of ignominy, public shame, a feeling of persecution by the country I love when I haven’t even done anything wrong.”
He was dismissed from his position as a visiting consultant at a public hospital shortly after he was charged, and he lost a few patients at his own clinic, The Pain Specialist.
It also became harder for him to leave the country to treat longtime patients, before the Covid-19 pandemic hit and most borders were shut to travellers.
MORE THAN S$600,000 IN LEGAL FEES
The legal proceedings did not just affect Dr Yeo but his family and close friends, too.
His daughter and son were aged 17 and 20 respectively when the allegations surfaced. Shortly afterwards, his daughter went to the United Kingdom for university studies, which meant that she was unable to physically be present for her father.
Dr Yeo and his wife simply told their children to ignore harsh comments on social media and from anyone around them.
Dr Yeo’s wife, who accompanied him at the interview, said that it hurt them to see him experience “unkind humiliation and treatment in public” and have his photo published in the news. “Especially for children, I don’t think they have any peers to talk to about it,” she added.
The couple also had to fork out more than S$600,000 for his legal expenses, hiring a few lawyers before settling on Mr Eugene Thuraisingam and his team.
Dr Yeo said: “It was financially and emotionally draining… a very tough and very brutal process, almost to the point that sometimes, I felt it was not possible. Except when I started looking at the truth, look at what it is — I didn’t do anything wrong.”
Fortunately, he said, the majority of his loved ones and patients stood by him throughout his ordeal. Many wrote supportive emails or character references and prayed for him, with some even becoming the couple’s best friends.
“I wish that the minority who continue to think and just believe the first line of accusations learn to have some wisdom,” he mused. "Learn to think and wait for the facts before they throw a stone at the person who is accused.”
When asked if doctors are more susceptible to these kinds of allegations, he agreed that they are “extremely vulnerable” due to their public standing.
Upon reflecting on his case, he said that there was nothing he could have done differently. He had even called two female nurses into the room with him and the complainant that evening.
“I’ve done all I can. I spoke the truth, I co-operated... but I had to go through the harsh and blistering process.”
Discussions are underway with his legal counsel on whether to take legal action against the complainant, he added, describing her as “dishonest and dishonourable”. The prosecution has not said if it will charge her with perjury.
Dr Yeo also said that he may become stricter with those who go to his clinic, even possibly barring them from entry.
He called for enough deterrence for those who abuse the law, while stressing that he hopes this will not discourage true victims of sex crimes from coming forward.
“As a medical doctor, we just want to do good and continue to do good even if it’s hard. But I hope the process, the system, can also safeguard us.
"When there’s a false accuser, please realise it earlier and help the real victim,” he implored.