Anti-vax group founder seeks court permission to leave S'pore for cancer treatment

Iris Koh's bail was extended and she will return to court on June 22. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

SINGAPORE - Iris Koh, founder of anti-vaccine group Healing the Divide, has requested to go to Malaysia during on ongoing court case to seek treatment for thyroid cancer, the court heard on Friday (June 17). 

District Judge Ng Peng Hong said her condition does not appear to be life-threatening and called for an adjournment until June 22, asking for more details. 

The application was made by her new defence counsel, Mr Wee Pan Lee, who said Koh, 46, suffered from cancer and had been recommended by Singapore General Hospital to undergo surgery to remove her thyroid glands to treat it. 

But she wanted to seek a second opinion from foreign doctors to find a way to save them, said Mr Wee, adding that Koh was also diagnosed with Graves' disease, an immune system disorder that affects the thyroid gland.

Mr Wee said: "Upon receiving the news of cancer, she was devastated. She searched for an alternative to invasive removal of the thyroid glands and seized this chance to go overseas for an alternative." 

Koh has made appointments at Mahkota Medical Centre in Malacca and Aenon Health Care in Negeri Sembilan during her planned trip between June 19 and July 22. 

She will first visit Mahkota and a doctor there will recommend a course of therapy treatment at Aenon, said the lawyer. 

He filed a document on Friday morning for Koh to visit a third institution - Spectrum of Life - in Kuala Lumpur during the planned trip, adding that the only instance she should not be granted the trip request is if she is likely to abscond. 

It was not mentioned why Koh wanted treatment in Malaysia, but Mr Wee said a doctor was prepared to see her, prompting her to make an appointment as soon as possible.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Jiang Ke-Yue said he did not wish to stand in her way to seek alternative treatment, but questioned the need for such a lengthy period of travel. 

He added that the documents did not show any link between the medical centres there.

Asking for an adjournment, the DPP said: "Where one provides more documents that raise more questions than answers, that itself lends to the inference that there is a potential flight risk. 

"We are not saying that there will be, but we need more information to be in a better position to agree to travel. The appropriate cause would be an adjournment."

Agreeing with the prosecution, the judge said: "This condition does not appear to be life-threatening at this point in time based on the submissions I have heard." 

Koh's bail was extended and she will return to court on June 22.

She was earlier accused of conspiring with general practitioner Jipson Quah to make false representations to the Ministry of Health that unvaccinated people were given the Sinopharm Covid-19 vaccine, when they were not.

Quah, who has been suspended from practising medicine for 18 months, was also charged with fraud by false representation and granted bail. 

In February, Koh was handed another charge over ripping up a printed copy of her statement recorded at a police station. 

She had been hospitalised prior to her court hearing on Jan 28, but her condition was not mentioned in court then. 

If found guilty of conspiring to make false representations to the Health Ministry, Koh could be jailed for up to 20 years and fined.

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