Court raises errant doctor's punishment

Kwan Kah Yee leaving the Supreme Court on July 6, 2015.
Kwan Kah Yee leaving the Supreme Court on July 6, 2015.PHOTO: ST FILE

A general practitioner who wrongly stated the causes of death of two patients in 2010 and 2011 had his punishment raised in court yesterday.

Kwan Kah Yee has been suspended for three years and ordered to pay $6,000 in legal costs to the Singapore Medical Council (SMC).

He was initially suspended for three months after pleading guilty to two charges of professional negligence in October last year.

Prior to these mistakes, the 64-year-old had wrongly stated a patient's cause of death in 2009.

Kwan was suspended for three months and fined $5,000 in 2011 for that.

The SMC had called last October's sentence "manifestly inadequate", and appealed for it to be raised to at least two years.

SMC's counsel Philip Fong argued that Kwan not only lacked the factual basis for issuing the two causes of death, but also referred to patient documents that did not exist to hide his misdeeds.

In 2010, Kwan stated the cause of death of a 26-year-old man based on alleged chest X-rays from the Singapore Anti-Tuberculosis Association (Sata).

However, investigations revealed that Sata did not have any such medical records.

In the following year, he certified a 32-year-old woman's cause of death as ischaemic heart disease. He had based his certification on an alleged complaint of chest pains in May 2007 made by the woman and medical information he allegedly retrieved from various polyclinics and clinics.

It was later found that there were no such medical records indicating the woman had suffered from ischaemic heart disease.

In mitigation, Kwan, who had practised at Superbcity Hospice in Peninsula Plaza, said he was a "hospice doctor" and "not specially trained" to certify cause of death.

Noting the case's severity, the three judges said they were "deeply disturbed" and that it was "a grave breach of doctors' ethical and professional duties".

Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon added that a lighter sentence would be "inconceivable" as it would have implications on public health and criminal justice.

In addition, the judges said that the sentencing benchmark will need to be revisited.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 07, 2015, with the headline 'Court raises errant doctor's punishment'. Print Edition | Subscribe