Orthopaedic surgeon deserves more lenient punishment

I have followed closely the discussion surrounding the Singapore Medical Council's (SMC) disciplinary tribunal's decision to fine an orthopaedic surgeon $100,000 for not telling his patient of possible side effects (Unwelcome signal for medical fraternity, by Dr Yik Keng Yeong, Jan 26; and Medical council's ruling too harsh, by Dr Andrew Yam Kean Tuck, Jan 26; Doc fined $100k for not warning patient of injection side effects, Jan 22).

Based on the summary of the disciplinary tribunal inquiry released by the SMC, I gathered that Dr Lim Lian Arn pleaded guilty, and the inquiry dealt with only the issue of sentencing, with the SMC seeking a five-month suspension.

Though I am neither a doctor nor a judge, it seems to me that Dr Lim was repentant, as he pleaded guilty at the first instance and apologised. The tribunal also found no serious aggravating factors that warranted the suspension.

I hope that when the SMC makes such decisions, it heeds the advice given by Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon in 2016, when he said: "Medical care is of direct concern to all Singaporeans, and we must avoid a situation where the practice of medicine comes to be adversely affected by the medical practitioner's consciousness of the risks of malpractice liability" (CJ seeks to ease doctors' fears of malpractice suits; Jan 12, 2016).

I believe that a doctor with the courage to be held accountable and is repentant deserves a more lenient punishment than the maximum fine Dr Lim received.

Lee Chee Seng

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 29, 2019, with the headline 'Orthopaedic surgeon deserves more lenient punishment'. Print Edition | Subscribe