TCM practitioner suspended after treatments caused patient to lose part of leg

A patient receiving acupuncture treatment. A traditional Chinese medicine practitioner has been suspended and fined after his treatments caused a diabetic patient to subsequently lose part of his left leg to amputation. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - A traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) practitioner has been suspended for three years and fined $5,000 after his treatments caused a diabetic patient to subsequently lose part of his left leg to amputation.

Mr Lee Miing Chong treated the 59-year-old patient on two occasions in 2015 for poor sensation in both feet, the TCM Practitioners Board said in a statement on Wednesday (March 13).

On Jan 3 that year, Mr Lee used heat lamp therapy on the soles of the patient. However, after the treatment, blisters developed and burst when the man walked. The patient returned to the clinic immediately.

Despite Mr Lee cleaning his wounds, applying medication and bandaging his feet, the patient ran a high fever that lasted until the next day.

When the patient went to see Mr Lee the next day, he was given acupuncture and electric pulse treatment. But as his condition worsened, he had to be admitted to hospital on the same day for severe burn wounds on his feet.

As he had diabetes, the burns did not heal. Four months later, his left leg was amputated below the knee.

The patient complained to the TCM Practitioners Board in April 2017.

After an inquiry, the investigation committee concluded that while using the heat lamp was appropriate and generally accepted in treating the man's condition of general weakness and chills, Mr Lee did not inform his patient about the risks or other available treatment options.

It also found that Mr Lee failed to take adequate precautions and care when providing the heat treatment. Instead, he placed the heat lamp too close - a palm's length - to the soles of the patient's feet and for an extended period of time.

He did this despite the patient telling him that both his feet had poor sensation and asking him to be careful.

In addition, the investigation committee noted that Mr Lee failed to provide an appropriate and generally accepted method of TCM treatment after the patient's soles suffered burns.

He gave his patient acupuncture and electric impulse treatment when he should have advised the man to seek immediate medical attention, given the seriousness of his injuries.

This led to a delay in the patient seeking appropriate medical treatment.

The investigation committee found that Mr Lee's conduct amounted to professional misconduct and/or negligence, and the board imposed a three-year suspension, a $5,000 fine and a censure.

Mr Lee, who practised at Royal Acupuncture Specialist Centre, must also pay the inquiry's costs.

While it was Mr Lee's first offence, the investigation committee noted the serious nature of his negligence and professional misconduct, the severe outcome suffered by the patient, Mr Lee's attempt during the inquiry to shift the blame for the severe outcome to the patient, and his complete lack of remorse and fabrication of untruths during the inquiry hearing.

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