Well-known plastic surgeon Woffles Wu has been suspended from practice for four months, following his conviction for abetting another man to take the rap for a speeding offence.
In a strongly worded statement yesterday, the Singapore Medical Council (SMC) said it did not believe he was not aware of the seriousness of his wrongdoing, adding that what he did was to "save his own skin".
Dr Wu was caught driving at 91kmh in a 70kmh zone but allowed another man, aged 83, to claim he was driving the car at that time.
The Subordinate Courts had fined him the maximum of $1,000 in June 2012 for the offence, which also carried a jail term of up to six months.
His sentence led to accusations on the Internet, and in Parliament, that Dr Wu got off lightly because of his standing and wealth.
The allegations were refuted by the Attorney-General's Chambers in a media statement in June, and by Law Minister K.Shanmugam in Parliament two months later.
Yesterday, the SMC's disciplinary tribunal explained that the penalty it chose was to deter other doctors from committing such an offence that would lower the standing of the medical profession.
His seniority and standing in the medical profession was an aggravating rather than a mitigating factor, it added.
As for his not knowing the seriousness of his actions, the tribunal said: "We find it completely incredible that the respondent committed the offence out of naivete and ignorance of the law."
It "cannot possibly fathom" that Dr Wu "lacked the mental faculties to appreciate that his wrongful act" was to "save his own skin", the statement added.
As for his defence that he had not given it a "second thought", the tribunal said if that was indeed true, then "he was plain callous in his conduct at best".
It also said the court's decision not to jail him has "absolutely no relevance" on its decision to suspend him.
On the public outcry, the tribunal said: "It is evident that our society would be outraged by acts of dishonesty committed by medical practitioners, especially those that are held in high esteem by peers and the public."
What Dr Wu did, it said, involved "dishonesty with some degree of premeditation, preparation and calculated to save his own skin. We cannot over-emphasise that every medical practitioner is expected to carry the hallmarks of integrity and honesty, whether in his professional or personal capacity".
All doctors, it added, must have the moral and professional courage to face and accept the legal consequences of their own actions. "The medical profession expects it. As witnessed in this saga, our society expects it too."
As for imposing a four-month suspension, the tribunal noted that a doctor was suspended for three months for a tax offence. Dr Wu's offence is more serious, it said.
Another doctor was suspended for five months for forgery in making $10,000 worth of claims from the Defence Ministry. That was a more serious offence, it added.
Dr Wu said he is not appealing as he "respects the decision" of the disciplinary tribunal. His clinic will stay open and locums will attend to his patients, he added.
Meanwhile, he will go on holiday and prepare for the World Masters Squash Championship in Hong Kong in July, he said.
This article was published on April 8 in The Straits Times.
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