SINGAPORE - An 82-year-old doctor has been suspended for a year and given a $10,000 penalty for supplying cough syrup to three Malaysian gangsters who were not his patients, the Singapore Medical Council (SMC) said in a press release on Tuesday (March 15).
Dr Benny Cheng Shao Lin earlier pleaded guilty to five charges under the Poisons Act at a Disciplinary Tribunal inquiry held on Jan 5. Another 37 charges were taken into consideration for sentencing.
He had sold the equivalent of 500 120ml bottles of Dhasedyl cough syrup on three occasions in March 2012, profiting $4,000 in total from the sales. At that time, he was a registered medical practitioner at Clifford Dispensary Jurong at Block 176 Boon Lay Drive.
According to the Poisons Act, a medical practitioner may only supply Dhasedyl syrup for the purposes of treating his or her own patients.
Calling Dr Cheng's offences serious, the Disciplinary Tribunal noted that the quantity of cough syrup sold was not small, that the sales had continued for slightly more than three months, that he had profited from the sales and that he must have known that the cough syrup would end up being sold to members of the public.
As such, the Disciplinary Tribunal agreed with SMC that he had "abused the trust that society reposes in doctors to dispense medicine responsibly", and in addition, "a clear and unequivocal message had to be sent to both the medical community and the public that such offences cannot be tolerated".
Dr Cheng's mitigation that he had sold the cough syrup to the gangsters out of " grave fear and duress" due to their threats were of little weight to the Disciplinary Tribunal, SMC said. He had enough time to think over their demands over a few days and report the matter to the authorities, the tribunal noted.
It also found that Dr Cheng had made a "conscious decision" to transact with the gangsters "without any regard to the potential harm that could be caused to the public by the indiscriminate peddling of poisons by these people".
However, the Disciplinary Tribunal considered the fact that Dr Cheng decided to close his clinic in early April 2012 to avoid further encounters with the gangsters.
For his offences, Dr Cheng was also censured and required to give a written undertaking to the SMC that he would not engage in the same or similar conduct again. He was also ordered to pay the costs of and related to the inquiry.
His suspension took effect on Feb 17 and will run to Feb 16, 2017.