SINGAPORE - A well-respected haematologist with 26 years of experience was suspended six months and fined $10,000 for using methods "generally not accepted" by the medical profession on a lymphoma patient.
Dr Gerrard Teoh Kheng Hoe, 52, medical director at the Clinic for Blood Disorders and Research at Gleneagles Hospital, was taken to task by the Singapore Medical Council (SMC) after a complaint was lodged on Aug 13, 2009.
SMC said the patient's health deteriorated and suffered complications after undergoing the treatment by Dr Teoh. The administration of appropriate treatment to the patient was also delayed as a result.
He also deceived the patient's family that the treatment - which SMC says is not scientifically supported - was provided in a trial setting when it was not.
In this regard, the duty not to harm the patient was breached by Dr Teoh through his actions, SMC said.
The patient's family also incurred "substantial sums" in bills for the treatment and to address subsequent health complications.
SMC added that Dr Teoh had a close association with the pharmaceutical company that manufactures the unsupported treatment method and hence his judgement may have been clouded.
"It was disturbing that Dr Teoh recommended VELCADE-based targeted therapy (the treatment in question) when he knew that R-CHOP is the accepted first-line treatment for the patient's medical condition," the SMC report said.
"Given that the patient and the family were vulnerable in the face of life-threatening illness and would have greatly relied on Dr Teoh's advice, the DC also found that the patient and his family's trust were abused. There is therefore a public interest element involved."
Dr Teoh is also to pay the costs and expenses of the proceedings, including the costs of the counsel to the SMC and the Legal Assessor.
He is also to be censured and must undertake in writing that he will not engage in such conduct unless with the requisite approval for a clinical trial.
Explaining the severity of the sentencing, SMC said that Dr Teoh's remorse for his actions was doubtful as he continued to justify the appropriateness of the treatment he recommended when he addressed the Disciplinary Committee at the Inquiry.