Woman who had affair with psychiatrist sues ex-lover for prescribing 'addictive' pills

Ms Serene Tiong alleged that Dr Chan Herng Nieng had freely prescribed antidepressant drug Xanax to her for anxiety. PHOTOS: SHIN MIN DAILY NEWS, ST READER

SINGAPORE - A woman who had an affair with her psychiatrist is suing him for negligence, alleging that her former lover had freely prescribed "highly addictive" pills to her for anxiety without registering her as his patient.

Ms Serene Tiong alleged that she became addicted to antidepressant drug Xanax and suffered side effects such as drowsiness and aggression because Dr Chan Herng Nieng had given her pills without ensuring that she would not become addicted to the drug.

Ms Tiong, 43, is seeking unspecified damages from Dr Chan, 47, in a case that opened in the High Court on Tuesday (April 19) for an eight-day hearing.

Her lawyer, Mr Ong Ying Ping, argued that Ms Tiong was more vulnerable to Dr Chan's advice as they were in a relationship and she had every reason to believe that he would take good care of her medical needs.

Ms Tiong also alleged that Dr Chan had caused her psychiatric harm by misleading her into thinking that he was committed to having a long-term and exclusive sexual relationship with her.

Her lawyer said she suffered a "spectacular mental and emotional breakdown" after she discovered a slew of risque messages between Dr Chan and his friend, surgeon Julian Ong, in which the two men boasted about their sexual conquests.

In his defence, Dr Chan said he had provided Xanax to Ms Tiong in his capacity as a loved one, not as her doctor.

He contended that he gave her only a small quantity of Xanax for short-term use out of care and concern, to help her cope with bouts of anxiety.

His lawyer, Ms Rebecca Chew, argued that the suit effectively arose out of a lover's spat and that Ms Tiong was motivated by a desire to destroy Dr Chan "at all costs".

Ms Chew added that Dr Chan did not commit to a long-term and exclusive relationship with Ms Tiong.

She told the court: "He had informed the plaintiff that he has no proclivity for marriage and does not see himself settling down with her."

The negligence suit is the latest legal battle triggered by Ms Tiong's discovery of the WhatsApp messages between Dr Chan and Dr Ong.

In the messages, Dr Chan said he enjoys having sex with married women.

Ms Tiong was married when she started a sexual relationship with Dr Chan in January 2017.

She later filed for divorce, which was finalised in November 2017.

Her relationship with Dr Chan soured after the couple went on a vacation to eastern Europe in April 2018.

While he was asleep, she unlocked his phone and took screenshots of his conversations with Dr Ong.

In June 2018, she lodged a complaint against Dr Chan with the Singapore Medical Council (SMC).

She accused Dr Chan and Dr Ong of colluding and taking advantage of vulnerable women for sex.

She e-mailed the complaint to other doctors, which prompted Dr Ong to sue Ms Tiong for defamation. He eventually won on appeal to the High Court.

Ms Tiong also tried to sue the chief executive of HC Surgical Specialists, Dr Heah Sieu Min, for acquiring a 19 per cent stake in Dr Ong's firm.

This was dismissed by the Court of Appeal, which said her case was "wholly unmeritorious" and that she was clearly on a "quest for revenge".

On Tuesday, Mr Ong told the court that Dr Chan was told by the SMC in February that he has been handed a five-month suspension, and that the psychiatrist is appealing against the decision.

Justice Tan Siong Thye said the focus of the SMC proceedings is different from that of the suit.

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