Jail for man who practised TCM without valid cert

Kong Tong Hong, 58, was convicted of practising TCM without a valid certificate and sentenced to 12 weeks' jail by a district court.
Kong Tong Hong, 58, was convicted of practising TCM without a valid certificate and sentenced to 12 weeks' jail by a district court.PHOTO: ST GRAPHICS

His patient had to undergo surgery after his 'needle' treatment caused her leg to swell

An unregistered practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), whose treatment of a woman led to injury requiring surgery, was convicted of practising TCM without a valid certificate and sentenced to 12 weeks' jail by a district court.

Kong Tong Hong, 58, was found guilty of four offences, said to have been committed between December 2013 and February 2014, under the Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioners Act (TCMA), after a week-long trial last year .

Stressing the need for deterrence, District Judge Siva Shanmugam said in decision grounds issued last week: "It is foreseeable that the rising demand for TCM services may encourage the proliferation of unqualified practitioners to enter the field and engage in the practice of TCM.

"There is thus a compelling need to protect the public from exposure to unqualified TCM practitioners."

Health Ministry prosecutor Karin Lai submitted a table of precedents which showed previous offenders under the Act had been fined up to $10,000 per charge.

But those cases had not involved the use of acupuncture except for one and, unlike Kong's, did not involve victims who received treatment more than once.

Madam Lim Lian Hoi started seeing Kong in December 2013 for pain and numbness in her leg until February the following year.

On Feb 14, 2014, he applied a needle to her lower right leg, and placed a cup over the pricked spot before using a device to "suck out the dirty blood", which was the standard procedure he used during her visits. Later, her leg swelled and she had to be admitted to hospital for surgery to drain the multiple abscesses in it.

She said the swellings occurred after the acupuncture session by Kong and a doctor testified the injuries might have arisen from infection following the treatment.

An expert witness testified that Kong's treatment of Madam Lim amounted to acupuncture, a prescribed practice under the TCMA.

Kong, defended by lawyer Daniel Atticus Xu, argued that he did not hold himself out to be a TCM practitioner and claimed the procedure conducted on Madam Lim was not TCM "but rather a form of traditional or common therapy" meant to relieve pain.

District Judge Shanmugam found, among other things, that Kong had provided inadequate answers in court and his claim of a "distinctive practice of common therapy" was an afterthought designed to answer the charges against him. Kong is out on bail pending appeal.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 24, 2017, with the headline 'Jail for man who practised TCM without valid cert'. Print Edition | Subscribe