Plastic surgeon Martin Huang fined $10,000 for failing to exercise due care in managing teenager

Plastic surgeon Martin Huang leaving the High Court on Oct 25, 2011.
Plastic surgeon Martin Huang leaving the High Court on Oct 25, 2011. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

SINGAPORE - Well-known plastic surgeon Martin Huang has been censured and fined $10,000 by the Singapore Medical Council's (SMC) disciplinary tribunal for failing to exercise due care in managing a teenage patient.

The patient, who was 17 years old when she consulted Dr Huang in November 2010 about removing a scar on her inner thigh, complained of distress after she had photographs taken without her underwear on prior to a procedure.

The disciplinary tribunal, in its grounds of decision released to the media on Tuesday (Dec 29), said the penalty was intended to send "a clear message" to the medical profession that "treating a patient with courtesy, consideration, compassion and respect and offering the right of privacy and dignity is required of all medical practitioners".

Dr Huang was also ordered to pay 70 per cent of the costs and expenses incurred for the proceedings. He also had to give a written undertaking to the SMC that he would abstain from any such conduct.

 
 
 

The patient saw Dr Huang at his clinic in Orchard Road. Her mother signed a consent form for the procedure, which included the taking of photos. She and the teen's younger sister, aged 15, then left the clinic.

The teen said she had insisted on wearing a bra when the photographer was about to take pictures.

Dr Huang allowed this, but when pictures were taken of her thigh, a nurse suddenly pulled her underwear off.

She covered herself with her hands, but was told by the doctor to place her hands on her head and stand against a wall.

The patient, through her mother, then filed a civil lawsuit against Dr Huang, alleging that there had been a lack of informed consent, as well as assault and negligence on the part of Dr Huang, causing her to suffer "extreme mental distress and trauma".

The lawsuit was settled out of court in October 2011.

Dr Huang told the media then that the pictures "were not wrongly taken", and the two parties had reached an amicable resolution without admission of liability.

This prompted the teen to say through her lawyer that his remarks upset her, and her parents were reviewing their legal options.

A complaint was filed with the SMC on Dec 8, 2011.

Referring to Dr Huang, the disciplinary tribunal said in the grounds of decision: "He certainly did not treat the patient with the required courtesy, consideration, compassion and respect and did not take steps to protect her privacy and dignity in the operating room as expected of him".

It added: "In the opinion of the DT, an adequate sanction is intended to deter similar misconduct and to uphold the trust and respect the society has for the medical profession."