Doctor fined, suspended over cough syrup offences

Dr Benny Cheng Shao Lin sold the equivalent of 500 120ml bottles of Dhasedyl cough syrup on three occasions in March 2012, gaining $4,000 in total profits.
Dr Benny Cheng Shao Lin sold the equivalent of 500 120ml bottles of Dhasedyl cough syrup on three occasions in March 2012, gaining $4,000 in total profits.PHOTO: THE NEW PAPER

An 82-year-old doctor has been suspended for a year and fined $10,000 for supplying cough syrup to three Malaysian gangsters who were not his patients.

Dr Benny Cheng Shao Lin sold the equivalent of 500 120ml bottles of Dhasedyl cough syrup on three occasions in March 2012, gaining $4,000 in total profits.

At that time, he was a registered medical practitioner at the Clifford Dispensary Jurong clinic at Block 176, Boon Lay Drive.

Under the Poisons Act, a medical practitioner may supply Dhasedyl syrup only for the purposes of treating his own patients.

Dr Cheng pleaded guilty to five charges under the Poisons Act at a Singapore Medical Council (SMC) disciplinary tribunal inquiry held on Jan 5, said the SMC yesterday. Another 37 charges were taken into consideration for sentencing.

Calling his offences serious, the tribunal noted that the quantity of cough syrup sold was not small and sales had continued for slightly more than three months.

It also noted that Dr Cheng had profited from the sales and must have known that the cough syrup would end up being sold to the public.

Thus, he had "abused the trust that society reposes in doctors to dispense medicine responsibly", the tribunal added.

Dr Cheng's mitigation that he sold the cough syrup to the gangsters out of "grave fear and duress" due to their threats carried little weight with the tribunal, SMC said.

It found that he had enough time to think about their demands over a few days and report the matter to the authorities.

It added that Dr Cheng had in fact made a "conscious decision" to transact with the gangsters without any regard to the harm that could be caused to the public by peddling the cough syrup.

However, the tribunal considered the fact that Dr Cheng, who had practised medicine for 45 years, closed down his clinic and retired in 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 those related to the inquiry.

His suspension took effect on Feb 17 and will run till Feb 16 next year.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 16, 2016, with the headline 'Doctor fined, suspended over cough syrup offences'. Print Edition | Subscribe