Committee to review Singapore Medical Council's disciplinary processes report

The court overturned a verdict by the SMC's disciplinary tribunal against aesthetic doctor Low Chai Ling (in blue), whom the SMC had found guilty of providing treatment with no scientifically proven effectiveness. Then, the court said it was wrong to retrospectively punish doctors for treatments that were not against guidelines at the time.
PHOTO: Committee to review Singapore Medical Council's disciplinary processes report

SINGAPORE - Nearly two years after the High Court lambasted the Singapore Medical Council (SMC) for a "legally embarrassing" disciplinary hearing, a committee set up to review this process has released its final report.

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The SMC announced that it would set up this committee in October 2012 after the High Court overturned the council's guilty verdict against aesthetic doctor Low Chai Ling for using non-evidence-based aesthetic medicine. 

The court said it was wrong to penalise doctors retrospectively for treatments that were not against guidelines at the time. It also released a 54-page judgment criticising the way Dr Low's disciplinary hearing had been carried out.

The committee had issued its report to the SMC privately in 2013. The recommendations address the need for better management of the disciplinary process and mitigating the increase in time and expense for disciplinary proceedings.

SMC said it is in broad agreement with the recommendations of the committee. The committee released 14 recommendations, of which eight were accepted.

SMC added that it intends to implement the necessary changes in a phased two-step approach.

First, it intends to amend the SMC's internal processes and policies; and second, to recommend to the Ministry of Health proposed changes to the Medical Registration Act (MRA) and Medical Registration Regulations (MRR) and effect such amendments.

The committee comprised senior medical professionals, lawyers and public servants.

Expressing his appreciation for the work undertaken by the committee, SMC President Prof Tan Ser Kiat said: “On behalf of the Singapore Medical Council, I would like to thank the Review Committee (for Disciplinary Processes) for its well-thought out recommendations which I am confident will strengthen and streamline the SMC disciplinary framework and ensure the continued protection of the health and safety of the public.

"SMC remains committed to reviewing and refining the complaints and disciplinary process periodically even as we move forward to ensure their continued relevance for many years to come.”

SMC said the report has far-reaching consequences and goes far in strengthening the legal processes surrounding Singapore's medical disciplinary process.

However, it noted that the process of reform is a never-ending one and with that in mind, SMC will continue to work with the relevant stakeholders to review its complaints and disciplinary processes periodically.

The review committee's key recommendations, and SMC's responses to them, can be found here .