New committee set up to improve consistency, fairness of sentences for errant doctors

The new Sentencing Guidelines Committee will develop a framework to guide disciplinary tribunals in meting out appropriate sanctions, "taking into account sentencing principles".
The new Sentencing Guidelines Committee will develop a framework to guide disciplinary tribunals in meting out appropriate sanctions, "taking into account sentencing principles".PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The Singapore Medical Council (SMC) has appointed a 16-member committee to help ensure that errant doctors get disciplinary sentences that are consistent and fair.

In a statement on Thursday (Jan 17), the SMC said the new Sentencing Guidelines Committee will develop a framework to guide disciplinary tribunals in meting out appropriate sanctions, "taking into account sentencing principles".

"The sentencing guidelines will help the disciplinary tribunals in ensuring consistency and fairness in the sentences meted out, and improve transparency and rigour in the disciplinary process," it said.

It added that in developing the guidelines, committee members will consider local jurisprudence on professional conduct and discipline, as well as the practices and approaches of other jurisdictions in this area.

They will also set out the mitigating and aggravating factors - such as a doctor's seniority - which a disciplinary tribunal can take into account when deciding on the appropriate sanction.

Currently, disciplinary tribunals look at penalties imposed in the past to decide whether a doctor should be fined, suspended, or struck off the register.

But last September, a disciplinary tribunal called for clear sentencing guidelines to be drawn up to ensure that penalties meted out are consistent.

 
 
 
 

Its chairman, Professor Walter Tan, said having clear guidelines would also let doctors know, from the penalties, how severely certain actions are deemed.

The matter was also raised in an opinion piece by Straits Times senior health correspondent Salma Khalik, in which she said that such guidelines are "long overdue".

"Doctors are not judges, and although they rightly sit in judgment over their peers who have erred, adjudicating over such matters is not their area of expertise," she wrote.

The new committee is headed by Judge of Appeal Judith Prakash.

It includes members of the medical and legal fraternities, as well as representatives from the Health and Law ministries.

All members were appointed by the SMC in consultation with both ministries.

"The members possess the necessary breadth and depth of subject matter knowledge and expertise, as well as legal expertise, to facilitate a thorough and considered review of the disciplinary process to propose a set of sentencing guidelines," the SMC said.

The committee aims to develop the guidelines by the end of this year.