GP gets suspension over breast treatment

He injected patient with unapproved filler, and failed to get her informed consent

A general practitioner has been suspended for six months after he used an unapproved filler to augment the breast of a patient, causing her "prolonged pain".

Dr Calvin Chan injected the patient with Aqualift Dermal Filler in August 2008 even though the Health Sciences Authority had ruled that it could not be used here.

Dr Chan, who was practising at Calvin Chan Aesthetic and Laser Clinic at Wheelock Place in Orchard Road, also did not tell his patient that there were no acceptable clinical studies or data on the safety of the substance. As such, he failed to get the patient's informed consent.

When the patient's right breast tissue became infected, he "inappropriately" used several classes of antibiotics without first finding out the bug causing her infection.

The patient had complained of "loss of romance and intimacy in her relationship with her husband as a result of her condition".

Although Dr Chan made four incisions to the woman's breast to drain it, on top of using the antibiotics, the infection persisted.

The Singapore Medical Council's (SMC) disciplinary tribunal said his "haphazard approach" caused the patient unnecessary pain and exposed her to possible multi-resistance of bacteria.

Dr Chan pleaded guilty to the four charges, and another - not getting informed consent - that was taken into consideration.

The counsel for the SMC, the medical professional watchdog, had asked the disciplinary tribunal to fine Dr Chan $10,000 and suspend him for a total of 12 months.

The tribunal, which posted its grounds of decision on the SMC website yesterday, said: "It is by no means an easy decision to make when determining whether an errant physician should be penalised with a term of suspension."

The tribunal took into account the doctor's guilty plea, which "helped to save time and cost", and the fact that he has since ensured his practice is compliant with Ministry of Health guidelines. However, it said that this was not enough to negate a suspension.

The tribunal chaired by Professor Sonny Wang, a respiratory and critical care specialist at Tan Tock Seng Hospital, said that a suspension was necessary because the doctor's acts "were simply unacceptable and inconsistent with upholding high standards of the medical profession".

It decided that the appropriate penalty was a one-year suspension. But it halved this sentence because there was a delay of more than three years between the doctor being told of the complaint and being served with notice of inquiry.

The tribunal took into account two High Court decisions last year to halve doctors' suspensions because of delays in hearing their cases.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 11, 2018, with the headline 'GP gets suspension over breast treatment'. Print Edition | Subscribe