Forum: Disciplinary regimes uphold standards of the profession

We refer to the letter "Should doctors sentenced in court be punished by SMC too?" (May 24) by Dr Yik Keng Yeong.

The Singapore Medical Council (SMC) wishes to correct any misunderstanding that there is "double punishment" when a doctor is given disciplinary sanctions under the medical disciplinary process and criminal sanctions under court proceedings, in relation to the same facts.

As professionals, doctors are subject to the disciplinary regime under the Medical Registration Act (MRA).

The medical disciplinary regime functions to uphold the standing of the medical profession, maintain public confidence and trust in doctors, and deter medical practices which compromise patient safety or cause harm.

The conduct of doctors may in some instances also raise real concerns as to their continued suitability to practise, as well as the safety of their patients.

For example, concerns as to patient safety may arise where a doctor is convicted by a court of sexual crimes, even if these crimes were committed outside of a clinical setting and unrelated to the doctor's medical practice.

In this connection, a doctor may be sanctioned by a Disciplinary Tribunal (DT) if the circumstances relating to his contravention of the law fall within the grounds of Section 53 of the MRA.

DTs impose orders that are specific to the professional practice of a doctor (such as suspension or removal from the professional register).

Other regulated professions, including law, accounting and engineering, have disciplinary regimes that serve similar purposes to uphold the standards and practices of their professions.

In Dr Sim Choon Seng's case, the DT found that his conduct undermined public confidence in the medical profession, which Dr Sim himself admitted to in his mitigation plea.

His 14-month suspension was in line with similar cases and was accompanied by directions for him to continue with follow-up treatment for his psychiatric conditions.

The sanctions imposed struck a balance between expressing the medical profession's disapprobation of Dr Sim's misconduct and affording him an opportunity for rehabilitation and reform. Dr Sim did not appeal against his sentence.

Peter Lee

Executive Secretary

Singapore Medical Council