Docs giving out pills too freely? It's like
Those who traffick in depressant drugs
risk jail and caning but rogue doctors are, at most, fined and
banned from practising medicine for life
ROGUE doctors have been getting away too lightly for
behaviour that would be considered criminal in
Ordinary folk who traffick in depressant drugs such as
Erimin and Dormicum face up to 10 years' jail and five strokes
of the cane.
In 2002, a 17-year-old girl was jailed for two years for
trafficking in 30 tablets of Erimin.
But the worst that can happen to a doctor who doles out
hundreds of Erimin pills to a patient is a $10,000 fine and a
lifelong ban from medical practice.
One doctor is known to have given 210 Dormicum tablets in
19 days to one patient; 430 tablets in 138 days to a second;
and 160 tablets in 31 days to a third.
This should no longer be called prescription but
The doctor in question was suspended from practice for nine
months. Other doctors have received more severe penalties.
Some were even banned from practising medicine for life.
It is likely that they were doling out even more
Such details are not made public, unless they form part of
the charges against the doctor, as the proceedings of the
Singapore Medical Council's disciplinary committee are
But why should such doctors be protected by the mantle of a
profession to which they bring disrepute?
The council, the profession's watchdog, has condemned such
actions as reckless disregard for patients' well- being and
abuse of professional privilege.
The council told one doctor: 'Proper prescribing by doctors
is a statutory privilege and carries with it a heavy
'This responsibility must be safeguarded in the interest of
The council fined an errant doctor $65,000, but the High
Court had to cut it to $10,000 on appeal because the council
had exceeded its powers under the Medical Registration
That doctor, Chia Yang Pong, sole licensee of the Grace
Polyclinic chain, had a total of 65 charges against
The council ruled that he had dispensed the drug to
patients 'without any regard to their medical conditions,
health, interest, or harm that might come to them'. He was
struck off the register and banned from medical pract- ice for
But no matter how much a doctor supplies to patients, the
Central Narcotics Bureau cannot act against him as doctors are
legally allowed to give patients drugs.
It is time that the Health and Home Affairs ministries got
together to review the laws governing doctors when they abuse
the trust put on them.
Doctors do need some protection, because of the work they
do. But this protection should extend to only those who are
conscientiously doing their job.
And not to those who overprescribe pills that can cause
addiction, memory loss, organ failure and
When doctors make a mockery of the Hippocratic oath they've
taken, by which they promise to place their patients' welfare
foremost, then they have lost the right to such
If such doctors are, in effect, trafficking, cane them and
send them to jail.
It cannot be that when drugs are peddled by a pusher, it is
a criminal offence; and when 'prescribed' in the hundreds by a
doctor, it is merely professional misconduct.
Something is clearly wrong when one group of offenders is
protected simply because its members can put 'MBBS' after