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The Straits Times article ("Medical Council: prosecutor, judge, jury”; Dec 30) reports the opinions of Associate Professor T. Thirumoorthy suggesting that the Singapore Medical Council (SMC)’s concurrent roles of prosecutor, judge and jury cause conflicts of interest. SMC’s cases reported in the media recently were dealt with under the old Medical Registration Act (MRA) as the complaints were made before the amendments came into force on 1 December 2010. SMC is now no longer bound by law to appoint its Council members to the Disciplinary Tribunal. Experienced doctors and lawyers can now be appointed to the Disciplinary Tribunal as members or as the chair. As SMC continues to push for such changes, we hope that doctors will support this in the public interest.

The report cites Prof Thirumoorthy as pointing out that it is not in SMC’s interest to lose a case and “if a doctor is acquitted, SMC has to bear its own legal fees”. This suggests that disciplinary cases may be unfairly heard. Such a serious allegation must be corrected. The Tribunals and Disciplinary Committees (DCs) are formed to determine the truth through fair and independent hearings. The Council never directs the outcomes of any hearing, nor has made the issue of legal fees a factor influencing the decisions of the DCs. We hope that Dr Thirumoorthy during his tenure as a Council member, acted fairly, like all his colleagues on the Council.

In the letter (“Lack of experience in ethics hinders SMC”; Jan 3) Dr Chua Boon Ling implied that the DCs lacked maturity and training in ethics to judge their peers. His insinuation can mislead the public. A doctor of the same name, Dr Chua Boon Ling, convicted by the DC for inappropriate prescribing in 2010 was in fact ably judged by 3 very senior doctors of high standing, ie a former President of the Singapore Medical Association (SMA), a former Executive Director of SMA’s Centre for Medical Ethics and Professionalism, and a respected Family physician. It is important that SMC lays out the facts correctly and responsibly in the media as many senior doctors and laypersons sacrifice many hours serving on the DCs in the interest of the public. Their good work should not be discredited by frivolous comments.

Dr Lau Hong Choon
Executive Secretary
Professional Conduct & Professional Standards Division
Singapore Medical Council

Published in the Straits Times on 9 January 2013

Last Updated :  10 Jan 2013 09:34