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TCM physician suspended for 3 years, fined $10,000 after asking cancer patient to delay surgery

TCM physician suspended for 3 years, fined $10,000 after asking cancer patient to delay surgery

SINGAPORE - A traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) practitioner was suspended for three years and fined $10,000 for serious professional misconduct, more than a year after an identical sentence was quashed in the High Court.

In 2014, the physician, Mr Chua Beng Chye, recommended a patient diagnosed with early-stage breast and lung cancer to delay surgery by three months to undergo TCM treatment.

He was initially dealt a three-year suspension and a $10,000 fine by the Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioners Board, but the penalty was quashed in April last year after the High Court accepted his argument that he was not given a fair disciplinary hearing.

In a statement on Monday (Sept 24), the TCM Practitioners Board said that a fresh inquiry before a newly constituted investigation committee, as ordered by the High Court, found that Mr Chua's recommendation to the patient compromised her prospects of successfully recovering from her breast and lung cancer.

The board said: "Mr Chua had breached the duty of care that he owed to her, as a TCM physician, and had exceeded the limits of his own competence."

Mr Chua suggested the patient undergo a treatment of 50 capsules containing powdered 15-year-old ginseng as well as medicinal powder consisting of 24 different herbs.

The investigation committee found that this was not an appropriate and generally accepted method of TCM treatment.

The investigation committee added in its findings that Mr Chua had failed to carry out an adequate assessment of the patient's condition, wrongly informed the patient that it was inconclusive as to whether her lung tumour was cancerous and wrongly interpreted that her breast tumour growth would be slow.

In addition, he wrongly told the patient that undergoing surgery might cause the patient's cancer cells to spread even faster and that her lung tumour was not life-threatening.

Mr Chua was also found to be neither remorseful for his conduct nor fully aware of the danger that he posed to the patient.

The case arose after the son of the patient, a 66-year-old woman, complained that Mr Chua misled her into believing TCM alone could cure her cancer.

On Nov 3, 2014, a day before her scheduled operation, the woman, who had breast and lung cancer, went to see Mr Chua. He told her she could go for surgery and rely on Western medicine for recovery; go for surgery and rely on TCM; or postpone surgery for three months and undergo TCM treatment.

The patient paid more than $6,000 for Mr Chua's treatment programme and did not go for the scheduled operation.

But the patient's son confronted Mr Chua the next day, and the woman's operation was eventually carried out on Nov 8, 2014.

This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.

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