22 May 2017

Doctor denies indecent assault, stupefying charges

8:37 pm on 22 May 2017

A Hastings doctor took advantage of his patients by sedating them so he could touch them sexually, thinking they would be unable to remember, the Napier District Court has been told.

David Kang Huat Lim in the Napier District Court on 22 May 2017

David Kang Huat Lim Photo: RNZ / Michael Cropp

David Kang Huat Lim is facing 13 charges of stupefying and indecently touching four men while working at medical centre The Doctors in Hastings in 2014.

In his opening address to the jury, Crown prosecutor Steve Manning said Dr Lim used the sedative midazolam to take advantage of the men, who were aged between 18 and 30.

"[He took advantage] by putting them into this semi-conscious state by sedating them, so that he could then touch them sexually, safe he thought in the knowledge that they wouldn't recall," he said.

"And if they did recall, they would be confused and wonder whether what they thought had happened had indeed happened."

The four men needed only minor surgery - two to their fingers, two for abscesses under their arms - and they did not require a sedative as strong as midazolam, or to be touched anywhere near their genitalia, said Mr Manning.

Dr Craig Ellis, an expert in emergency medicine, told the court people were generally awake on midazolam but forgot what happened while they were under its influence.

Mr Manning said when the men were sedated, Dr Lim cleared the room of nurses and family, and then indecently assaulted them.

"[They were] all young men of a Māori or Pacific Island descent, all with minor medical complaints, all treated with this drug midazolam, all having very similar experiences," he said. "Their trousers were either removed or interfered with, and their genitalia touched."

On a follow-up visit, Mr Manning said Dr Lim rubbed one man's back and propositioned him for sex.

Mr Manning said the clinic's own guidelines said it was essential two people were present when midazolam was used.

The defendant's lawyer, Harry Waalkens QC, said Dr Lim categorically denied the charges.

Mr Waalkens said midazolam caused some people to hallucinate - and, as in this case, believe their hallucinations were real.

He said medical literature also noted people had reported sexual touching that could not have happened.

"Feeling things, seeing things, hearing things that actually do not exist, did not happen," he said. "It's a delusion if you like, a false belief or an impression of something that happened that in fact did not happen."

Hallucinations were recognised as a side effect by the manufacturer Roche, he said.

Dr Ellis, however, said it was very rare for people to hallucinate when given midazolam through their nose, and sexual hallucinations were very unusual.

Mr Waalkens said the situation was ripe for misunderstanding because Dr Lim was overtly gay and the men would have known that; and the police interview tactics raised problems of suggestibility.

"They questioned them at that stage about events that had happened 18 months or so earlier - it was a long time after the event - 'what happened when you went to see Dr Lim?'

"One of them even asked the police officer 'why are you asking me these questions' and he was told that Dr Lim may have acted inappropriately towards some of his patients," he said.

Twenty-two witnesses are set to be called during the trial, which is likely to run through until next week.