Engage qualified experts for tribunal

It is a positive sign that the Singapore Medical Council and Ministry of Health have taken steps to look into developing guidelines for sentencing and to review the policy of taking informed consent.
It is a positive sign that the Singapore Medical Council and Ministry of Health have taken steps to look into developing guidelines for sentencing and to review the policy of taking informed consent.PHOTO: ST FILE

It is a relief to read that the Singapore Medical Council (SMC) is taking steps to correct an injustice outside of the normal procedure (Things are looking up for the medical profession. Really., March 21).

In a less-than-perfect watchdog system, it is not realistic to expect perfect justice. Hence, it is a positive sign that the SMC and Ministry of Health (MOH) have taken steps to look into developing guidelines for sentencing and to review the policy of taking informed consent.

For this we must give credit to the several thousand doctors who raised two petitions.

Hopefully, the SMC and MOH will look beyond the current issues to also review and correct other pressing issues in order to improve the healthcare system in Singapore.

The composition of the Disciplinary Tribunal (DT) comprising two doctors who are given only basic training in the judicial system is far from desirable.

Furthermore, when non-expert doctors in the DT rely largely on the opinion of non-expert witnesses, this creates a toxic formula heading towards possible unfair decisions and judgment.

The field of medicine has ramified and branched too far and deep into many more sub-speciality areas compared with many years ago.

One cannot expect the DT and non-expert witnesses to fairly make decisions, let alone pass judgment, on complex issues particularly related to diagnosis and management of clinical conditions in sub-speciality areas.

Hence, knowledgeable and experienced medical experts play a critical role in assisting the DT.

Setting up a committee to develop guidelines for sentencing is necessary, but not the critical first step. The first priority is to look at ways to improve the quality and competence of the DT and the engagement of qualified expert witnesses so that, as a team, they are competent and equipped to make fair decisions and to mete out appropriate sentences.

Ho Ting Fei (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 25, 2019, with the headline 'Engage qualified experts for tribunal'. Print Edition | Subscribe