SMC should relook its role
I AM disappointed that the Singapore Medical Council (SMC), in its letter ("Disciplinary cases fairly heard: SMC"; Wednesday), chose to focus on the smaller point of financial considerations instead of its role as "prosecutor, judge and jury".
The SMC has done a good job in most of the cases involving errant doctors peddling addictive medications for financial gain.
However, its track record in other cases is more spotty. Some doctors have the view that if they ever get called up for an SMC disciplinary hearing, they would be unlikely to get a fair trial. This has led, as Dr T. Thirumoorthy pointed out, to doctors resorting to defensive medicine ("Medical council: Prosecutor, judge, jury"; Dec 30).
It is good that the SMC now appoints non-member doctors to the disciplinary tribunal. But it should not give the impression that the doctors are appointed because they toe the official line, as this could fuel distrust on the ground.
There is also the question of whether the training for these ad hoc appointed doctors is sufficient. Medicine often is a matter of professional opinion rather than an impartial study of the facts of a case. The influence of a lawyer on the tribunal may or may not make a difference, depending on the individual.
The SMC and the Health Ministry should relook their roles. Having the ministry as the complainant, an independent non-appointed tribunal as the investigator and jury, and a fully elected SMC as judge is something worth exploring.