Why the difference in treatment of fees for lawyers and doctors?

It is heartening to note that the active engagement of lawyers regarding remuneration resulted in the removal of a motion to limit lawyers' fees in civil suits (MinLaw removing proposal for fixed legal fees; Nov 24).

The basis for this was that the proposed ceiling of charges would dampen Singapore's competitive edge as an international litigation hub.

The Minister of Law himself was personally involved in the open dialogue at two townhall meetings attended by more than 800 lawyers, and the proceedings were reported in the local press.

This is in stark contrast to recent events connected with the medical profession.

The fact that the fee guidelines proposed by the Singapore Medical Association were forcefully removed in 2007 against recommendations by the professional body without an appropriate and timely replacement was downplayed.

There was little or no media coverage of open dialogue between doctors and the Minister of Health prior to the recent announcement of the fee guidelines.

These events seem to indicate the relative importance accorded to the different professions.

On a daily basis, when doctors treat and deal with patients' lives, they place their own on the line.

It is noteworthy that the daily risk undertaken by doctors does not warrant a similar open dialogue with the Minister of Health, where remuneration is concerned.

Ensuring a strong Bar, which is in the public interest, is reflected in the willingness of the Law Minister to openly engage with professionals.

By inference, is there a lower need for a strong healthcare system? Could this, therefore, subsequently lead to an erosion of healthcare standards?

Mona Tan ( Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 06, 2018, with the headline 'Why the difference in treatment of fees for lawyers and doctors?'. Print Edition | Subscribe