The Ministry of Health (MOH) has, for the first time, asked the Singapore Medical Council to apply to the High Court to review a judgment by its disciplinary tribunal. The tribunal had fined a doctor the maximum $100,000 for not telling his patient of possible complications from a commonly used steroid injection. Naturally, the fine caused great consternation among doctors; more than 5,000 people signed an appeal to share their concerns with the Health Minister, and the matter was raised in Parliament. While the medical profession is self-regulated, and its autonomy should be respected, the MOH was wise to have intervened in the case. It concerns not only one doctor but also the wider profession, and the quantum of punishment could set a chilling precedent.
Undoubtedly, medical liability plays an important role in the regulatory regime, which ensures that doctors treat patients with care and concern. Given that the consequences of laxity leading to a mistake could be disastrous for patients, it is essential that doctors keep their patients' well-being uppermost no matter the status or standing of the individual, or how overworked the practitioner is. Every society must strive to offer its members genuine and substantial protection from medical negligence. Singapore, in any case, is very much a part of the map of countries where doctors have to live up to the gravity of the professional choices they make.
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