3-year suspension and $10k fine for Susan Lim

SINGAPORE - For overcharging her royal Brunei patient to the tune of over $20 million, renowned surgeon Susan Lim has been slapped with a three-year suspension and fined $10,000 by The Singapore Medical Council (SMC).

She is also to be censured in writing and must undertake not to overcharge again, The Straits Times reported.

However, Dr Lim, 57, is appealing against the penalties and will continue to practise pending the decision by the Court of Three Judges.

The appeal, to be held in January 2013, is expected to be the final stretch of the legal battle that has dragged on since 2008, when she was hauled up before SMC after the Health Ministry accused her of grossly overcharging the late Pengiran Anak Hajah Damit, sister of Brunei's queen.

She reportedly billed the patient $24.8 million for the seven months leading up to the patient's death in 2007.

According to court documents, Dr Lim was found guilty last month of 94 charges of professional misconduct, which included making false representations in invoices sent to other medical specialists called in for the patient's treatment.

However, Dr Lim claimed that she provided extraordinary services such as arranging an evacuation flight and that her charges are reasonable based on her past earnings. She also argued that the actual bill was much lower.

In March 2011, she sent a letter to then Foreign Minister George Yeo informing him that the disciplinary hearing might expose information that could cause "unnecessary embarrassment" to Brunei and affect bilateral ties.

In her latest attempt to have the decision overruled, she is asking that the court not only dismiss the penalties, but that it declare her not liable for the costs of the hearings before the disciplinary hearings and the Court of Three Judges.

Her lawyer, Senior Counsel Lee Eng Beng, is expected to argue that SMC's disciplinary committee's decision rationale contains "errors in law and errors of fact" and that there are no fee guidelines nor does the ethical code state a maximum amount a doctor can charge.