2nd aesthetic doc cleared of misconduct

SINGAPORE - Aesthetic doctor Georgia Lee was yesterday cleared of professional misconduct when the Court of Appeal set aside a Singapore Medical Council's guilty verdict against her.

In December last year, the council's disciplinary committee (DC) had ruled that some procedures she was using on patients were non-evidence based and against the medical code of ethics.

She turned to the Court of Appeal to overturn the DC's ruling that she should pay costs for the 10-day hearing. Dr Lee, 43, did not appeal the verdict.

In an unprecedented move last week, SMC issued a statement to say it had appealed to the court to set aside its guilty verdict against Dr Lee. This followed a similar case heard by the Court of Appeal last month against another aesthetic doctor, Dr Low Chai Ling.

Dr Low, 37, had been found guilty of professional misconduct by the SMC, also in December last year, for performing unproven treatments such as mesotherapy.

Dr Low appealed against the verdict. Last month, the Court of Appeal exonerated her. Among other things, Justice V. K. Rajah described the SMC hearing as "legally embarrassing".

Yesterday, Dr Lee's lawyer, Ms Kuah Boon Theng, asked the Court of Appeal for leave to amend Dr Lee's appeal to include an appeal against the verdict.

Senior Counsel Tan Chee Meng, acting for the SMC, had no objections.

Ms Kuah then asked the court to dismiss all three charges - for using mesotherapy, carboxytherapy, and low-dose IV vitamin C for post inflammatory hyperpigmentation non-responsive to conventional treatments - and the penalties imposed against Dr Lee: a $10,000 fine, censure, a written undertaking not to repeat the offence, and payment of costs for the hearing.

Again, Mr Tan had no objections, and sought leave to withdraw the originating summons. The entire hearing was concluded in less than five minutes.

Ms Kuah said after the hearing that the speed with which her client had been exonerated was due to the "SMC counsel's readiness to consent to the application".

Both doctors had been found guilty by the medical watchdog's DC of practising non-evidence based aesthetic treatments. Dr Low was found guilty of five charges, and Dr Lee three.

Doctors are supposed to treat patients with tried and tested methods. Anything else should be carried out as a clinical trial.

The two had performed the treatments prior to September 2007, when there were no guidelines on aesthetic procedures.

In 2008, the Academy of Medicine, College of Family Physicians and the SMC issued guidelines on aesthetic treatments. Some, including carboxytherapy and mesotherapy, are now allowed under certain conditions.

In Dr Low's appeal, the court said she should not have been found guilty retrospectively. It also asked why she was taken to task when many doctors were offering similar treatments.

The SMC explained in a statement last week that prior to amendments to the Medical Registration Act in 2010, it could only act against doctors if it received a complaint against them.

It also said that since the conditions for acquittal in Dr Low's appeal mirrored those of Dr Lee, the SMC decided to take the court's lead from the earlier case.

It added that it will set up a review committee to improve its disciplinary processes to "mitigate the increase in time and expense".

An SMC spokesman said last night that under the Medical Registration Act, there is no provision for the SMC to set aside the verdict of a disciplinary committee. That can only be done by the Court of Appeal - which happened yesterday morning.

salma@sph.com.sg


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