TCM practitioner fined after patient loses part of leg

A traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) practitioner has been suspended for three years and fined $5,000, after his treatments caused a diabetic patient to lose part of his left leg to amputation.

Mr Lee Ming Chong had treated the 59-year-old patient on two occasions in 2015 for poor sensation in both feet, the TCM Practitioners Board said in a statement on Wednesday.

On Jan 3 that year, Mr Lee used heat lamp therapy on the soles of the patient's feet. After the treatment, the man developed blisters which burst when he walked.

The patient returned to the clinic immediately.

Although Mr Lee cleaned his wounds, applied medication and bandaged his feet, the patient ran a high fever until the next day.

When the patient returned to Mr Lee the next day, he was given acupuncture and electric pulse treatment.

But as his condition worsened, he had to be admitted to hospital on the same day for severe burn wounds on his feet.

 

As the patient had diabetes, the burns did not heal. Four months later, his left leg was amputated below the knee.

The patient complained to the TCM Practitioners Board in April 2017.

After an inquiry, the investigation committee concluded that using the heat lamp was an appropriate method of treatment for the man's condition of general weakness and chills.

However, it found that Mr Lee did not explain and inform his patient about the risks or other treatment options.

It also found that Mr Lee failed to take adequate precautions and care when providing the heat treatment. Instead, he placed the heat lamp too close - a palm's length - to the soles of the patient's feet for an extended period of time.

Mr Lee did this even though the patient had informed him of poor sensation in both feet and asked him to be careful.

The investigation committee also noted that Mr Lee had failed to provide an appropriate method of TCM treatment for the patient's burns.

He had given his patient acupuncture and electric impulse treatment when he should have advised the man to seek immediate medical attention. This led to a delay in the patient seeking appropriate medical treatment.

The investigation committee found that Mr Lee's conduct amounted to professional misconduct and/or negligence.

The board imposed a three-year suspension, a $5,000 fine and a censure.

Mr Lee, who practised at Royal Acupuncture Specialist Centre, must also pay the inquiry's costs.

Mr Lee is a first-time offender. However, the investigation committee noted the seriousness of his negligence and professional misconduct; the severe outcome suffered by the patient; Mr Lee's attempt during the inquiry to shift blame to the patient; and his complete lack of remorse and fabrication of untruths during the inquiry hearing.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 15, 2019, with the headline 'TCM practitioner fined after patient loses part of leg'. Print Edition | Subscribe