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27-Year-Old Malaysian Apologises For Pretending To Be A Medical Intern For 7 Months

She pleaded guilty to practising without a licence from 18 January to 9 August last year.

Cover image via AAP Image/Daily Mail & ABC News

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A 27-year-old Malaysian woman has been charged in Australia for pretending to be a medical intern in Sydney for seven months

According to Daily Mail, former medical student Lee Zhi Sin was sentenced to a two-year intensive correction order (ICO) and fined AUD10,000 (RM30,000) at the Downing Centre Local Court in the city last Thursday, 20 January.

She pleaded guilty to practising medicine despite not being registered as a health practitioner under the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Authority (APHRA) at Bankstown-Lidcombe Hospital from 18 January to 9 August last year.

The international student had failed six core disciplines in her final year of studying medicine at the University of New South Wales (UNSW)

However, before failing and being discontinued from completing her medical degree in October 2020, Lee had applied for a 2021 internship in June 2020.

In January 2021, she was offered an internship at Bankstown-Lidcombe Hospital, which she took up and failed to declare she was not qualified or registered.

In court, Magistrate Glenn Bartley dismissed Lee's excuse that she was "confused" when she was offered the internship and said the student lied "day after day, shift after shift".

"If she was truly confused she would have got advice," said Bartley.

He added that she "deliberately misled the hospital" and continued to work under "repeated and calculated dishonesty" such as leaving her registration number blank on multiple assessment forms.

Image via ABC News

She was caught on 9 August 2021 when she told the hospital that she was "waiting for documentation" from UNSW

Although Lee wrote in a letter to the court that she completed 126 shifts "risking lives of patients and staff" with her guise, defence lawyer Razia Shafiq said the risk was quickly lessened one month into the job.

Razia said Lee was found to be underperforming by February and was placed under additional supervision and guidance. The extra supervision meant Lee neither made decisions regarding patient treatment nor exclusively dealt with them.

The lawyer also queried how could the error not be picked up earlier by hospital staff.

The magistrate countered that the hospital was already overstretched by the COVID-19 pandemic and was not to blame.

"In a public hospital, the risks aren't supervised minute-to-minute, one error could lead to the worst case of death," Bartley said.

Image for illustration purposes only.

Image via The Conversation

In her defence, Lee submitted to the court that she was under extreme financial and social pressure, which led to the circumstances

Lee told 9News that there were "a lot of factors that had led to this" and it was not just "a simple lie".

"It's a bit of carelessness and recklessness at first and also a bit of social stress as well," said Lee, who hails from Penang.

"I'm approaching 30 years old and I feel like there's a bit of social pressure from society to do something I guess."

During the interview, she apologised to all the patients she helped treat, especially if anything happened to them as a consequence of her actions.

She added that her family has spent over AUD300,000 (RM900,000) for her to study in Australia.

Although the magistrate said he was still not satisfied with some of her reasons, according to APHRA, he accepted that Lee demonstrated remorse and was spared jail.

She was fined AUD10,000, ordered to pay APHRA legal costs of AUD3,400 (RM10,200), and undergo treatment for her mental health issues under the ICO, among other strict conditions.

Beware of unlicensed doctors. Here's how you can check the registration status of doctors and dentists in Malaysia online:

Societal pressure, anxiety, and depression are prevalent among medical practitioners and students, even in Malaysia: