Lim Teng Ee Joyce v Singapore Medical Council

CourtHigh Court (Singapore)
JudgeChao Hick Tin JA
Judgment Date19 July 2005
Neutral Citation[2005] SGHC 129
Citation[2005] SGHC 129
Plaintiff CounselEdwin Tong and Tham Hsu Hsien (Allen and Gledhill)
Defendant CounselDoris Chia and Peter Chean (Harry Elias Partnership)
Published date20 July 2005
Date19 July 2005
Docket NumberOriginating Motion No 16 of 2005
Subject MatterAdministrative discretion,Whether appellate tribunal entitled to interfere with costs order if manifestly wrong or exercised on wrong principles,Singapore Medical Council,Costs,Whether notion of completely subjective or unfettered discretion contrary to rule of law,Section 45 Medical Registration Act (Cap 174, 2004 Rev Ed),Disciplinary proceedings,Whether disciplinary committee having unfettered discretion to impose costs,Whether inconsistent with principle and contrary to notion of fairness for disciplinary committee to punish medical practitioner with costs if practitioner acquitted of charge,Whether principles on costs in normal civil proceedings applicable to disciplinary process,Administrative Law,Whether disciplinary committee's failure to explain order for appellant to pay costs in respect of unsubstantiated third charge was prima facie error,Disciplinary tribunals,Discretionary powers,Whether necessary for tribunal to make proper apportionment on costs in relation to disciplinary inquiry

19 July 2005

Chao Hick Tin JA (delivering the judgment of the court):

1 This was a motion in which the appellant, Dr Lim Teng Ee Joyce, appealed against an order on costs which was made against her by the Singapore Medical Council (“SMC”) pursuant to certain disciplinary proceedings instituted against her. We heard the appeal on 27 May 2005 and allowed it in part by reducing the amount of costs, which she was required to pay, to only one-third. We now explain why, in our opinion, the order on costs was erroneous.

The background

2 The appellant is a dermatologist in private practice. The disciplinary proceedings arose from a complaint from one of her patients, Wendy Lim Ai Beng (“the patient”), who consulted her for treatment of facial acne and other skin problems. The appellant saw the patient during the period 18 February 2003 to 31 May 2003.

3 There is no necessity for us to go into details regarding the skin problems or the precise treatment she applied. Suffice it to say that on 28 April 2003, the appellant prescribed laser treatment for the patient’s left cheek in order to stimulate the formation of collagen and reduce the redness. Her nurse, one Ms Evelyn Lee, was tasked to give the laser treatment.

4 On 29 May 2003, the patient returned to see the appellant for further treatment of her left cheek. She was given the same laser treatment by the nurse. On this occasion, while receiving treatment, the patient complained of pain and heat. She was assured that this was normal and was given a cold compress to cool her skin. Thereafter treatment resumed. Later, when the patient was at her hairdresser’s saloon, she noticed fluid dripping from her left cheek. She returned to the clinic at about 7.15pm. The appellant saw the patient and recorded in her notes that the area was well and that there was slight serum oozing, slight redness. There were no ulcers or breaks.

5 The next day, the swelling at the cheek became worse. The patient went back to the appellant who then dressed up the swollen part. The following day, not only did the swelling not get better, it got worse, prompting the patient to seek treatment from other dermatologists. A few days later the patient lodged a complaint with the SMC.

6 Investigations ensued. As a result, three charges of professional misconduct under s 45(1)(d) of the Medical Registration Act (Cap 174, 2004 Rev Ed) (“the MRA”) were preferred against her. The first two charges related to the appellant improperly delegating to her nurse the administration of the laser treatment to the patient on the two days, 28 April and 29 May 2003, in contravention of the licence issued to the appellant. The third charge was for:

Failing to properly manage the treatment of the patient by recommending the use of the Coolglide Vantage Laser on the patient’s facial skin on 29 May 2003 when the patient’s facial skin allegedly displayed certain symptoms that were allegedly adverse to the use of the laser.

7 The appellant was given notice of the charges on 23 August 2004. Nothing of significance occurred until 20 January 2005 when the appellant notified the SMC that she would be pleading guilty to the first two charges and would only be making a mitigation plea in relation thereto. However, she would be defending the third charge.

8 The appellant was given the deadline of 18 February 2005 to submit her mitigation. However, as the SMC intended to rely on certain documents (which included expert evidence and correspondence with the Health Sciences Authority) which it could not furnish to the appellant in time, the appellant was only able to submit her mitigation on 23 February 2005, the same day the documents were made available to her.

9 The hearing before the Disciplinary Committee (“DC”) commenced on 1 March 2005 and continued until 3 March 2005. We should add that the third charge was amended by the SMC on 18 February 2005, after the appellant had submitted her expert reports to the SMC’s solicitors the day before. The third charge was further amended on 28 February 2005.

10 At the conclusion of the hearing on 3 March 2005, the DC acquitted the appellant of the third charge. In respect of the first two charges for which the appellant had pleaded guilty, the DC, after hearing mitigation, imposed the following punishments, namely that:

(a) she be censured;

(b) she be suspended for a period of three months;

(c) she be fined the sum of $10,000;

(d) she give an undertaking that she would abstain in future from the conduct complained of or from similar conduct;

(e) that she pay all the costs of and incidental to these proceedings, including those of the solicitors to the SMC and the Legal Assessor (“the costs order”).

11 Following the decision of the DC, the SMC’s solicitors wrote to the appellant’s solicitors...

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13 cases
  • Shorvon Simon v Singapore Medical Council
    • Singapore
    • Court of Three Judges (Singapore)
    • 17 October 2005
    ...apply with the same cogency to the assessment of costs incurred in a disciplinary process: Lim Teng Ee Joyce v Singapore Medical Council [2005] 3 SLR 709 at The appeal 23 The appellant’s submissions in this appeal were a re-enactment of those made to the judge. In arguing for a significant ......
  • Dr Eric Gan Keng Seng v Singapore Medical Council
    • Singapore
    • High Court (Singapore)
    • 1 November 2010
    ...and must be, that Dr Gan is only required to respond to the charge and nothing more (see Lim Teng Ee Joyce v Singapore Medical Council [2005] 3 SLR(R) 709 at [26] and Ho Paul v Singapore Medical Council [2008] 2 SLR(R) 780 at [9] (“Ho Paul”)). Part IV of the Medical Registration Regulations......
  • Ho Paul v Singapore Medical Council
    • Singapore
    • High Court (Singapore)
    • 16 January 2008 a charge is circumscribed by the precise framing of that particular charge: see Lim Teng Ee Joyce v Singapore Medical Council [2005] 3 SLR 709 at [26]. It is for these reasons that the precise wording of the charge is crucial in assessing the case that the person charged has to 10 A simp......
  • Re Shankar Alan s/o Anant Kulkarni and Another Application
    • Singapore
    • High Court (Singapore)
    • 17 May 2007
    ...Joshua Benjamin v Law Society of Singapore [1988] 2 SLR (R) 470; [1988] SLR 1 (refd) Lim Teng Ee Joyce v Singapore Medical Council [2005] 3 SLR (R) 709; [2005] 3 SLR 709 (refd) Schaftenaar v Samuels (1975) 11 SASR 266 (refd) Shankar Alan s/o Anant Kulkarni, Re [2007] 1 SLR (R) 85; [2007] 1 ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
2 books & journal articles
    • Singapore
    • Singapore Academy of Law Journal Nbr. 2017, December 2017
    • 1 December 2017
    ...Constitutionality” in Constitutional Interpretation in Singapore: Theory and Practice (Jaclyn L Neo ed) (Routledge, 2017) at p 139. 109[2005] 3 SLR(R) 709. 110 Cap 174, 2014 Rev Ed. 111Lim Teng Ee Joyce v Singapore Medical Council[2005] 3 SLR(R) 709 at [28]. 112Lim Teng Ee Joyce v Singapore......
  • Administrative and Constitutional Law
    • Singapore
    • Singapore Academy of Law Annual Review Nbr. 2005, December 2005
    • 1 December 2005
    ...of three judges as the final decision-making body, sitting as an appellate tribunal. 1.5 In Lim Teng Ee Joyce v Singapore Medical Council[2005] 3 SLR 709, the High Court found that an order of the DC that the appellant should pay the full costs of a three-day hearing was incorrect and contr......

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