GP suspended 6 months for causing 'prolonged pain' with unapproved breast treatment

Dr Calvin Chan, who was practising at Calvin Chan Aesthetic and Laser Clinic at Wheelock Place in Orchard Road, used the Aqualift Dermal Filler to augment the breast of a patient in August 2008.
Dr Calvin Chan, who was practising at Calvin Chan Aesthetic and Laser Clinic at Wheelock Place in Orchard Road, used the Aqualift Dermal Filler to augment the breast of a patient in August 2008.PHOTO: CALVIN CHAN AESTHETIC, LASER CLINIC

SINGAPORE - A general practitioner has been suspended for six months for carrying out an unapproved aesthetic treatment that caused "prolonged pain" to his patient.

Dr Calvin Chan, who was practising at Calvin Chan Aesthetic and Laser Clinic at Wheelock Place in Orchard Road, used the substance to augment the breast of a patient in August 2008.

Aqualift Dermal Filler had been turned down by the Health Sciences Authority for use.

Dr Chan 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 her right breast tissue became infected, he "inappropriately" used several classes of antibiotics without first finding out about the bug causing her infection.

Although he had 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 one that was taken into consideration.

The SMC withdrew two other charges. One was for failing to practise within the limits of his competence, since what he did was invasive and "should only be performed by a plastic surgeon" and the other was for not referring the patient in a timely manner to a medical specialist when the infection occurred. No reason was given for this move.

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 published its grounds of decision on the SMC website, 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."

It is made more difficult, it said, after a 2010 amendment which raised the maximum fine from $10,000 to $100,000 so that a tribunal can impose a stiffer financial penalty in lieu of suspension which has to be of at least three months.

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

It said 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 being told of the complaint and being served with notice of inquiry.

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