Med student mocks patient with 3 abortions on Twitter

SINGAPORE - A medical student could be in trouble after mocking a young patient for apparently getting pregnant five times and undergoing three abortions.

The 22-year-old woman, who describes herself on her Facebook profile as a final-year student in the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine at the National University of Singapore (NUS), broke the doctor's code of confidentiality when she tweeted about the patient's medical history on April 7.

After mentioning the patient's pregnancies and abortions in her first tweet, the student added: "Haha. Gross right." In a follow-up tweet, she gave more details such as the patient's age, when she had her first baby and her sexually transmitted infections (STI), but did not name her.

She then added: "Dont even wna (want to) look at this patient."

A netizen sent a copy of the student's tweets to citizen journalism website Stomp on Friday, voicing her concerns that they showed her "condescending attitude towards patients, making her unsuitable for practising medicine".

Identified only as Stomper C, she wrote:

She added that the posts was about someone's private and confidential information checked and that Miss Chia's condescending remarks made her unsuitable for the practice of medicine.

"Tweets from a final-year medical student in a university. She posts private and confidential information about patients on her twitter and judges them condescendingly.

"Do we want doctors who choose which patients they will or will not treat? As a lowly medical student, she is already thinking this way. "What will happen when she actually graduates? If all doctors think like her, our nation is in trouble."

The New Paper understands that the whistleblower could be a fellow NUS student.

The Stomp posting had a 69 per cent "enraged" rating and most of them who commented on it were critical of the student's actions.

Citing her "lack of integrity" in revealing the patient's medical history and for mocking the patient, some agreed with the Stomper that the student was not doctor material.

But some also questioned if she had done anything wrong because she had not identified the patient.

Several doctors TNP spoke to said the importance of doctor-patient confidentiality was impressed upon medical students from the moment they start clinical work.

A check on the Singapore Medical Council's website shows that the council emphasises the need to keep mum about a patient's medical condition as it is the centre of maintaining trust between a doctor and the patient.

Physician Pledge

Its Physician's Pledge requires all doctors "to respect the secrets which are confided in me".

The council states that as a doctor "you have access to sensitive personal information about patients and you have a duty to keep this information confidential, unless the patient consents to the disclosure, disclosure is required by law, or is necessary in the public interest".

When contacted, the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine said students at the medical school have always been taught to safeguard their patient's records and confidences, and that confidentiality is an important ethical and legal principle.

Its spokesman said the NUS Centre for Biomedical Ethics, established in September 2006, teaches medical undergraduates medical ethics, law and professionalism.

"Lessons begin from their first year and are integrated with the biomedical science and clinical teaching throughout the rest of their medical curriculum," she said.

The school is investigating the matter.

"If the student who allegedly tweeted about patient information is indeed from our School of Medicine, she will be counselled and will also be subject to disciplinary proceedings," the spokesman said.

TNP tried to contact the student through her Facebook profile, but she removed it soon after TNP sent her a message requesting an interview.

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