Two of the nation’s largest medical associations have expressed support for the doctor who assessed the mental health of a man who was charged with stabbing and killing a railway police officer last year, after the doctor was harassed.
Allowing legal cases to be decided by public opinion would not be good for Taiwan’s independent judiciary, the two groups — the Taiwan Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, and the Taiwanese Society of Psychiatry — said in a joint statement on Saturday.
Railway Police Bureau officer Lee Cheng-han (李承翰) was stabbed to death by a man surnamed Cheng (鄭) on July 3 last year.
Photo: Ting Wei-chieh, Taipei Times
The Chiayi District Court on April 30 found Cheng not guilty in the case’s first ruling, as he was diagnosed with schizophrenia.
It ruled that he could be released on NT$500,000 bail and was ordered go undergo mental health treatment for five years.
Prosecutors on Saturday filed an appeal after the court decided for a second time on Friday to commute Cheng’s sentence on grounds of diminished responsibility.
The ruling has sparked a wave of public anger directed at Taichung Veterans General Hospital, Chiayi Branch physician Shen Cheng-che (沈正哲), who conducted Cheng’s psychiatric assessment.
“I made the assessment on the basis of my professional judgement, but I have no control over how the court ultimately decides to sentence the suspect,” Shen said on Facebook on Friday.
Despite sympathizing with Lee’s family, Shen wrote: “If the purpose is just to follow public opinion or societal expectations, then there is no reason to seek a doctor’s assessment, and people could just decide the matter with an Internet poll.”
The medical associations’ statement said that the assessment was only one piece of evidence that the judge considered in his ruling, and the weight attached to that assessment was determined solely by the independent judiciary, adding that the doctor making the assessment had no influence over the case.
In some past cases, the judge did not take such assessments into consideration, showing that they were not the sole factor in the final ruling, the statement said.
The judiciary made the utmost effort to consider evidence from both sides equally and to seek the truth, it said.
The prosecutors in Cheng’s case were dissatisfied with the first ruling, and criticized the psychological evaluation of Cheng and the process by which that evaluation was reached, Taiwanese Society of Psychiatry secretary-general Liao Ting-lieh (廖定烈) said.
“We regret to see this [response to an evaluation],” he said.
The public’s desire to find someone responsible in such a large case is understandable, but denouncing the judge who made the ruling or the doctor who made the evaluation is inappropriate, Liao said.
Judges are also able to seek evaluations from multiple doctors, or request multiple evaluations, but this would affect the judiciary’s budget and must be taken into account, he said.
A large number of variables could affect the outcome of a psychological evaluation, such as the accuracy of the information collected, whether the information collected was the same when gathered at different times or in different environments, and so on, he added.
Additional reporting by CNA
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