Chief Justice reveals changes to medical litigation

New measures will be introduced to avoid the practice of "defensive medicine" and higher insurance costs, said Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon at the opening of the new legal year yesterday.

"Medical care is of direct concern to all Singaporeans and we must act to avoid a situation where the practice of medicine comes to be adversely affected by the medical practitioner's consciousness of the risks of malpractice liability," he added.

Three overlapping measures are being evaluated, he said.

These are mediation as a primary step in resolving disputes; a shift to a more judge-led process from an adversarial model and allowing the judges to be helped by medical assessors.

A standing panel of medical assessors, comprising senior doctors nominated by the Singapore Medical Council (SMC), will be established.

A medical litigation list of judges will be set up in the High Court and State Courts to handle these cases as well, with the Singapore Judicial College working with SMC to provide training tor the judges and medical assessors.


The family justice courts will also look into developing an international family mediation framework to address cross-border family law issues, he said.

The courts must keep pace with new complexities that come with an ageing population and increasing number of transnational marriages and family relocations, he noted.

An International Advisory Council will be established. It will bring together internationally renowned family judges, academics and experts in family law and social science.

The council will discuss the latest ideas in family law and practice and study international best practices and explore solutions. It will meet for the first time later this year.


During his speech, CJ Menon announced initiatives to enhance access to civil justice as well, including two likely moves in the coming year to review the District Court's civil monetary jurisdictional limit from $250,000 and to look at increasing the monetary jurisdiction of the Small Claims Tribunal.

Fees for the Singapore Academy of Law's programmes and services will likely be increased, with some adjustments implemented by July.

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