Case of medical confidentiality

Dr Soo Shuenn Chiang
Dr Soo Shuenn Chiang

In March, the director of the Neuroscience Clinic at the National University Hospital was fined $50,000 for breaching medical confidentiality.

Dr Soo Shuenn Chiang (above), a psychiatrist, had given confidential information to a patient's brother when he reportedly phoned the clinic posing as her husband in 2015.

The man had called to say that the patient was suicidal but she had refused to go to the Institute of Mental Health. He said he needed a doctor's letter so the police or an ambulance could take her there for treatment.

Without verifying the caller's identity, Dr Soo wrote a memo and left it with the clinic's staff.

The patient's brother collected it and later submitted it to the Family Court, along with other documents, to obtain a personal protection order against the patient for her son.

Following this, the patient filed a complaint with the Singapore Medical Council (SMC), which convened a disciplinary tribunal to hear the case and later fined Dr Soo $50,000 for the breach.

Dr Soo pleaded guilty.

This case triggered another petition asking the Health Ministry to look into the decision.

The SMC later applied to the Court of Three Judges, which is the final body of appeal for cases dealt with by the disciplinary tribunal, for the case to be reviewed.

 
 
 
 

As in the previous case involving Dr Lim Lian Arn, the case against Dr Soo was thrown out by the court.

In a judgment delivered by Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, the court pointed out that this was the second time within a short period that it had to deal with a "potential miscarriage of justice".

It said the SMC had again changed its stance after the charge was imposed.

It also said that the disciplinary tribunals had failed to consider all facts and that both Dr Lim and Dr Soo had made things more difficult by not contesting the charges.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 04, 2019, with the headline 'Case of medical confidentiality'. Print Edition | Subscribe