Biomedical Law and Ethics

Citation(2012) 13 SAL Ann Rev 89
Date01 December 2012
Published date01 December 2012
Professional discipline

6.1 Apart from the ongoing proceedings against Dr Lim Mey Lee Susan, which is pending judgment of the Court of Three Judges, the other high-profile case concerning the discipline of the medical profession was Low Chai Ling v Singapore Medical Council[2013] 1 SLR 83. The case involved complaints by the Singapore Medical Council (‘SMC’) against Dr Low Chai Ling of The Sloane Clinic for offering a range of aesthetic procedures and treatments which, it was alleged, had not been properly tested and thus contravened Art 4.1.4 of the SMC's Ethical Code and Ethical Guidelines (‘ECEG’).

6.2 The court reversed the findings of the disciplinary tribunal, which had held that Dr Low was in breach of her professional conduct obligations on the majority of the charges against her. In strong language, the court criticised the framing of the charges against Dr Low and the manner in which she was found guilty by the disciplinary committee (‘DC’). In particular:

(a) The court held (at [31]–[37]) that there was an inconsistency between the charges (which had focused on her offering of the impugned procedures prior and up to being notified of the complaint against Dr Low) and the case that was in fact argued (which had focused on the allegation that Dr Low had wilfully refused to cease offering such procedures even after being notified of the complaint).

(b) The court also held (at [38]–[41]) that the charges were too vague and ought to have been particularised. In addition, the court was especially vexed by the ‘rolled-up’ charges, which contained multiple prongs and subsets of allegations, making it unclear if the various limbs were meant to be read cumulatively or in the alternative.

(c) The court found (at [60]–[66]) that the DC was correct to find that certain of the medical procedures offered did not meet the standards of ‘evidence-based medicine’. However, prior to this case, the SMC had not issued guidelines prohibiting the offering of such procedures and indeed, they were widely practised. Furthermore, guidelines issued by the SMC in October 2008 specifically considered that procedures for which there was low or very low scientific basis could be offered as long as certain safeguards were followed. The court affirmed (at [42]) that ‘[i]t is a cardinal tenet of the rule of law that a person should only be punished for offending laws, regulations or professional practices that are both known and clearly established at the time of...

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