A doctor has been given a four-month suspension by the Singapore Medical Council (SMC) for inappropriately prescribing sedatives to a patient over seven years.
After a disciplinary inquiry, the council found that Dr Ng Teck Keng, 50, had over-prescribed high-dependency drug Dormicum to his patient for sleep-related issues from March 2005 to July 2012.
The male patient was warded in the intensive care unit at a hospital for an overdose as a result. When asked when the patient was warded and his current condition, the SMC declined to comment, citing confidentiality issues.
Making the case public yesterday, the SMC said in its grounds of decision that it was "taken aback" that Dr Ng had prescribed his patient 80 tablets of the drug over eight occasions in a five-month period in 2012.
Dr Ng did so even though he was aware that the patient may have been getting Dormicum from other medical practitioners at the same time, said the SMC.
The patient's father had also written to Dr Ng in March 2011, requesting that he refrain from prescribing his son the drug as he was addicted to it.
Dormicum is part of the benzodiazepine family and is typically prescribed to ease insomnia or anxiety attacks.
Dr Ng's practice is at the Sunshine Clinic Family Practice and Surgery in Tampines Street 42.
In his mitigation plea, Dr Ng said his clinic was not doing well financially and a suspension would affect its operations adversely.
He added that he was not driven by financial gain but had wanted to provide compassionate care for the patient - which clouded his clinical judgment.
In deciding the penalty, the SMC noted that Dr Ng was remorseful and had pleaded guilty to the charge at an early stage of the proceedings, which began in September.
But the council added that Dr Ng had not supported his diagnoses with proper documentation, nor referred his patient to a psychiatrist in a timely manner.
Even though the SMC decided not to fine Dr Ng, it said the minimum three-month suspension would not adequately address the seriousness of the case.
"This is not only an over-prescription for an extremely long period of time, it is also a case of mismanagement of the patient," said the SMC.
In similar cases previously, errant doctors were suspended for three to four months and fined between $3,000 and $5,000.
Last year, a doctor who was found to have inappropriately prescribed hypnotic medication, such as Dormicum, Valium, Erimin and Tranxene, was suspended for three months and fined $3,000.
When contacted, a worker at Dr Ng's clinic said the doctor was overseas and not available for comment.
This article was first published on December 27, 2014.
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