Is cost of seeking legal justice too prohibitive?

Orthopaedic surgeon Lim Lian Arn, who had been fined $100,000 by the Singapore Medical Council (SMC) for not telling a patient about the side effects of an injection, had the judgment set aside by the Court of Appeal.
Orthopaedic surgeon Lim Lian Arn, who had been fined $100,000 by the Singapore Medical Council (SMC) for not telling a patient about the side effects of an injection, had the judgment set aside by the Court of Appeal.PHOTO: GLENEAGLES MEDICAL CENTRE

Senior health correspondent Salma Khalik provided good insight into the case of Dr Lim Lian Arn (Medical litigation: Recent judgment helped clarify issues, Aug 8).

I think the role of Dr Lim's lawyer should be further examined, though I am not implying any negligence or wrongdoing on his part.

Could it be that defensive legal counselling is being practised by lawyers as they advise their clients, much like how defensive medicine is practised as a result of increasing medical litigation costs?

The judges said that when asked if he had any view on the soundness of the conviction, Dr Lim's lawyer "was of little assistance to us and seemed more concerned to explain why Dr Lim had been advised to plead guilty" (Court clears doc fined $100k for not telling patient of side effects, July 25).

Could Dr Lim's decision to plead guilty have been based on defensive legal counselling, that is to say, consideration of the pros and cons of other factors like high cost of court action, lack of resources, inconvenience and personal stress outweighing the real intent and purpose of court action to pursue justice?

I have had a similar experience, in which I was advised not to initiate action against a public entity although I had enough evidence to pursue my case.

The main consideration is the cost and resources required for the case, which will result in being "out of pocket" even if I do win it.

I have also been advised that it is a "fool's errand" for an individual to initiate legal action against a public entity.

Is the cost, convenience and climate of seeking legal justice prohibitive to the common person today, especially when acting against a larger entity with more resources? I believe this should be examined and addressed.

Ooi Say Peng

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 10, 2019, with the headline 'Is cost of seeking legal justice too prohibitive?'. Print Edition | Subscribe