SINGAPORE - A 65-year-old doctor - barred from practice for wrongly stating two patients' causes of death - was jailed for nine months on Wednesday (July 13).
Kwan Kah Yee, a general practitioner, pleaded guilty in April to three criminal charges: signing a false death certificate, fabricating evidence for a Singapore Medical Council (SMC) probe, and furnishing false information to police. Two other similar charges were taken into account in sentencing.
District Judge Salina Ishak said Kwan's crimes had caused public disquiet and showed a clear breach of professional integrity.
They also had the potential to undermine public health and safety, and trust in the medical profession.
Kwan's crimes were also very hard to detect, the judge said, adding that a stiff jail term was needed.
On March 29, 2011, Kwan went to Ms Siti Mariam Mohd Salleh's home in Teck Whye Lane at the request of a casket company, after it was told of her death by her husband Sariffudin Mazlan.
Kwan was then practising at Superbcity Hospice in Peninsula Plaza and was paid about $250 for each certificate of death he issued.
He issued one to state that 32-year-old Ms Siti's cause of death was "ischaemic heart disease", when there was no evidence of this.
On Dec 10 that same year, after the SMC started investigations based on a complaint by Ms Siti's foster sister, Kwan asked Mr Sariffudin to sign a letter, to be used for the probe. Among other things, it said Ms Siti had been treated for ischaemic heart disease since May 2007, and Mr Sariffudin wanted the probe to end to prevent her confidential information from being disclosed.
Although he did not agree with the letter, Mr Sariffudin signed it as he trusted Kwan, the court heard.
But in October 2014, the SMC's disciplinary tribunal suspended Kwan for three months, after he pleaded guilty to two charges of professional negligence relating to the wrong death certificates of Ms Siti and Mr Gareth Tan Soon Poh, 26.
Kwan had issued a death certificate in Mr Tan's Dublin Road home on March 29, 2010, stating the causes of his death as "bronchiectasis" and "chronic obstructive airway disease", without any proof of this.
The SMC appealed to the Court of Three Judges, which in July last year raised Kwan's suspension to three years. He was also ordered to pay $6,000 in legal costs to the SMC.
The three judges - Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, and Judges of Appeal Chao Hick Tin and Andrew Phang - also said they were "deeply disturbed" by the case, and, in a rare move, asked the Attorney- General to consider investigating it.
Police began investigations last July, and asked Kwan to produce his medical records and case notes. But he gave false case notes which recorded, among other things, that Ms Siti's ECG reports and abnormal blood test results had been shown to him by Mr Sariffudin.
He also falsely recorded Mr Sarifuddin as saying Ms Siti had complained of chest pain in 2007, and that she was treated in hospital several times.
In an earlier case, Kwan was suspended for three months, fined $5,000 and censured by the SMC for wrongly stating a patient's cause of death in 2009 as "congestive cardiac failure", which is not an acceptable cause of death.