TCM physician's suspension, $10k penalty quashed

Traditional Chinese medicine practitioner Chua Beng Chye was handed a three-year suspension and a $10,000 penalty last year for advising a cancer patient to delay surgery.
Traditional Chinese medicine practitioner Chua Beng Chye was handed a three-year suspension and a $10,000 penalty last year for advising a cancer patient to delay surgery.PHOTO: SHIN MIN

High Court accepts his argument that he was not given a fair disciplinary hearing

The High Court yesterday quashed a three-year suspension and a $10,000 penalty meted out to a traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) practitioner who had advised a cancer patient to delay surgery, accepting his argument that he was not given a fair hearing during disciplinary proceedings.

TCM physician Chua Beng Chye went to court to challenge the findings of a five-member committee assembled by the TCM Practitioners Board. The committee included Associate Professor Koo Wen Hsin.

Mr Chua argued that Prof Koo was biased and had prejudged the matter.

Near the end of the hearing in November 2015, Prof Koo, an oncologist from the National Cancer Centre Singapore, made strongly worded comments about Mr Chua to the rest of the panel, which included three TCM practitioners.

Prof Koo told the panel that Mr Chua did not have basic oncology knowledge, did not know how to read medical literature and had no concern for patient safety.

Said Prof Koo: "This is a highly dangerous man... And I cannot imagine how our world will be if everyone is allowed to practise based on his own idea, his own opinion and knowledge. This is a menace, M-E-N-A-C-E, to our patient and a shame to our society."

Prof Koo was referring to a reply Mr Chua had earlier given, when the latter justified his advice to the patient, saying: "I am subject to my own idea, subject to my own opinion and subject to my knowledge."

Yesterday, Justice Woo Bih Li said: "Even if Prof Koo had good reasons to be frustrated and alarmed at the substance of the responses... a person who is accused of ethical misconduct is still entitled to the process of a fair hearing. Justice must not only be done. It must be seen to be done."

The High Court judge said Prof Koo's comments showed he had prejudged the case, as Mr Chua had not yet closed his case and closing arguments had yet to be made.

Justice Woo adjourned the case for arguments on whether he should order a re-hearing before a newly convened committee.

The case arose after the son of a 66-year-old woman complained that Mr Chua misled her into believing TCM alone could cure her cancer.

On Nov 3, 2014, a day before her scheduled operation, the woman, who had breast and lung cancer, went to see Mr Chua. He told her she could go for surgery and rely on Western medicine for recovery; go for surgery and rely on TCM; or postpone surgery for three months and undergo TCM treatment.

The patient paid more than $6,000 for Mr Chua's treatment programme and did not go for the scheduled operation.

The next day, her son confronted Mr Chua.

The woman's operation was eventually carried out on Nov 8, 2014.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 22, 2017, with the headline 'TCM physician's suspension, $10k penalty quashed'. Print Edition | Subscribe