Reasonable, affordable healthcare costs also responsibility of private doctors

The most significant aspect of Ms Megan Loy's entry to the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine at the National University of Singapore is the selection panel's ability to perceive her potential to be "a truly compassionate doctor; someone who would intuitively understand and respond empathetically to pain and suffering" ("Taipei fire survivor enters NUS med school"; Aug 20).

This attribute is embodied in the Hippocratic Oath which new physicians have to take. In essence, it states that a physician will treat the ill to the best of his ability, preserve a patient's privacy and teach the secrets of medicine to the next generation - basically, to uphold specific ethical standards.

Unfortunately, it is silent on doctors' duty and responsibility to make healthcare reasonably affordable, even in private practice.

In public hospitals, which are subsidised by the Government, medical fees are controlled and doctors are paid a fixed remuneration. Monetary motivation is, therefore, not a factor at play.

However, in my experience, doctors in private practice tend to jack up their fees.

When my son was very young, I took him for a hernia procedure. The doctor chided me for not advising him earlier that the fees would be covered by insurance.

To quote him verbatim, he said: "If I had known that you were going to claim from insurance, I would have charged double."

A doctor whom I have been seeing for a chronic condition happened to come by when I was in the treatment room. We chatted for a while but I was billed a consultation fee for that.

It is well known that doctors can earn a lot more in private practice. It is not surprising that we encounter cases of doctors being reprimanded and punished for overcharging, besides other unethical practices ("Health check for medical ethics"; Aug 19).

Meanwhile, healthcare real estate investment trusts exacerbate rising healthcare costs as hospital leases are continually increased in order to satiate the expected dividend yields of shareholders.

Lawrence Loh Kiah Muan