Doc given 2 weeks to pay $500k in legal fees

Dr Pang was ordered to pay the SMC's legal costs in two disciplinary hearings against him.
Dr Pang was ordered to pay the SMC's legal costs in two disciplinary hearings against him.

A surgeon who owes the Singapore Medical Council (SMC) about $500,000 in legal costs for two disciplinary hearings has been given until Sept 28 to pay the sum or disclose his assets.

Dr Pang Ah San, 58, a general surgeon, was twice found guilty of breaching ethical guidelines which state that doctors are not to offer remedies that are not generally accepted, except in approved clinical trials.

Between 2007 and 2009, he performed a procedure known as percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy on at least four elderly patients at Mount Alvernia Hospital. The procedure consists of inserting a tube into the stomach of patients who cannot swallow.

Instead of standard procedure, Dr Pang used an experimental tube he had invented.

In 2012, he was fined $10,000 for using the tube on an 84-year-old patient who needed permanent tube-feeding. She died of pneumonia a few weeks after the procedure. In 2014, a second disciplinary hearing was started after the Health Ministry received two e-mails from the then-chairman of the hospital's ethics committee. It looked into Dr Pang's use of the same device on three other patients. Dr Pang was found guilty, suspended for six months and fined $10,000.

For both sets of proceedings, he was ordered to pay the SMC's costs, totalling about $538,000.

The SMC, represented by lawyer Chang Man Phing, took steps to enforce the costs orders, including initiating bankruptcy proceedings. This application was dismissed after Dr Pang showed he had $1 million in the bank.

Yesterday, the SMC sought to start contempt proceedings against Dr Pang for disobeying court orders to pay the costs and to disclose his assets. However, the High Court gave him two more weeks to comply.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 14, 2016, with the headline 'Doc given 2 weeks to pay $500k in legal fees'. Print Edition | Subscribe