SMC raps doc who kept giving pills to addicted patient

A patient who saw a doctor for respiratory infection, cough and insomnia became addicted to the sleeping pills prescribed.

Yet the doctor, who had more than 20 years of experience, prescribed an excessive amount of the pills from 2008 to 2012.

Yesterday, he was suspended from medical practice for four months and fined $12,000.

The Singapore Medical Council (SMC) said in a press statement yesterday that Dr Victor Chew pleaded guilty to professional misconduct for inappropriate prescriptions of benzodiazepines, which are a type of sleeping pills. The 52- year-old doctor was a general practitioner at Canberra Medical Clinic in Sembawang.

The SMC said that about five years ago, the patient's brother lodged a complaint against Dr Chew for prescribing excessive benzodiazepines to the patient.

This was despite Dr Chew being aware that the patient had become addicted to the pills and had a history of anxiety disorders and depression, which would be worsened by the use of benzodiazepines, said the SMC.

A disciplinary tribunal inquiry into the case was held on Feb 15 and April 7 this year, and it found numerous aggravating factors.

These included prescriptions combining benzodiazepines and codeine-containing cough mixtures on 13 occasions, which breached guidelines, and the fact that Dr Chew had been a very experienced doctor.

The inquiry's judgment took into consideration mitigating factors, such as Dr Chew's early plea of guilt and his good reputation in the medical profession. His contributions to the underprivileged in society and the good testimonials tendered on his behalf were also considered.

The SMC added: "We were also satisfied that Dr Chew was not motivated by financial gain in making the inappropriate medical prescriptions."

Dr Chew also pleaded guilty to not properly maintaining the patient's medical records and not referring the patient to a psychiatrist in a timely manner.

His suspension from medical practice began yesterday and will run until Nov 4.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 06, 2017, with the headline 'SMC raps doc who kept giving pills to addicted patient'. Print Edition | Subscribe