Surgeon given 2 weeks to pay $500,000 in legal costs to SMC or disclose assets

Surgeon Pang Ah San has been given until Sept 28 to pay $500,000 in legal costs to the Singapore Medical Council.
Surgeon Pang Ah San has been given until Sept 28 to pay $500,000 in legal costs to the Singapore Medical Council. ST PHOTO: AZIZ HUSSIN

SINGAPORE - A surgeon, who owes the Singapore Medical Council (SMC) about $500,000 in legal costs for two different sets of disciplinary proceedings, has been given until Sept 28 to pay the sum or disclose his assets.

Dr Pang Ah San, 58, a general surgeon, had performed a procedure known as percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy on at least four elderly patients at Mount Alvernia Hospital, where a tube is inserted into the stomach of patients who cannot swallow.

There is a standard procedure for this, but Dr Pang used a non-standard tube he had invented and taken out a patent for.

In 2012, an SMC disciplinary committee found him guilty of professional misconduct because he had breached ethical guidelines stating that doctors shall not offer to patients remedies that are not generally accepted by the profession, except in approved clinical trials.

In July 2008, he inserted the tube into an 84-year-old patient who required permanent tube-feeding after she suffered a stroke. She died of pneumonia a few weeks later. Her family complained to the SMC.

Dr Pang was fined $10,000, censured and had to give an undertaking not to use the device unless he obtains approval from the authorities. His appeal to the Court of Three Judges was dismissed.

For this set of proceedings, he was ordered to pay about $204,000 in legal costs to SMC.

In July 2014, a second disciplinary hearing was started following a complaint by the Ministry of Health (MOH), which had received two e-mails from the then chairman of Mount Alvernia Hospital's ethics committee.

The second hearing looked into Dr Pang's use of the same device on three other patients in 2007, 2008 and 2009.

He was again found guilty and was suspended for six months and fined $10,000.

For the second hearing, he was ordered to pay about $290,000 in costs.

SMC took various measures to enforce the costs orders, including hauling him to court to disclose his assets.

On Tuesday (Sept 13), SMC sought to launch contempt of court proceedings against Dr Pang for disobeying orders to pay costs and to disclose his assets. However, the High Court gave him two more weeks to comply.