Singapore

Surgeon suspended for sending derogatory, abusive e-mails about SMC

His messages attacked the Singapore Medical Council's integrity

A surgeon has been suspended from practice for 10 months for sending more than 120 derogatory and abusive e-mails about the Singapore Medical Council (SMC) and people linked to it.

Dr Pang Ah San, a general surgeon who works at SC Chia Clinic at Mount Alvernia Hospital, also has to pay a penalty of $10,000, remove all derogatory social media posts against the SMC and people it appointed, and pay all costs of the disciplinary hearing.

Dr Pang, who is in his 60s, had faced two prior disciplinary hearings - for using a "loop" percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy tube on four patients between 2007 and 2009.

This method of providing a permanent way to feed through a gastrostomy tube is not generally accepted by the medical profession.

Following a complaint by the family of one of the patients, Dr Pang was found guilty of professional misconduct and fined $10,000 in 2012. He appealed against the judgment by the Court of Three Judges, which upheld the disciplinary committee's verdict.

A second disciplinary hearing was convened based on the similar treatment of the three other patients. This time, in 2014, he was suspended for six months and fined $10,000.

Dr Pang was also ordered to pay all costs for both the disciplinary hearings as well as for the appeal, which amounted to $510,412.29.

He failed to pay these costs, but a bankruptcy application was dismissed in November 2015 when he showed the court he had more than $1 million in liquid funds.

When he still did not pay the costs, the SMC applied to get the money from his bank account, only to be told he no longer had an active account with that bank.

The SMC took further action against him in April 2016.

For contempt of court in not providing information on his assets, Dr Pang was imprisoned for seven days in October 2016. A bankruptcy order was made against him a year later.

The current disciplinary hearing against him was for the more than 120 e-mails - which together with attachments, totalled more than 670 pages - he had sent to "numerous recipients" including doctors, the Health Minister and the media between 2012 and 2017.

In its grounds of decision published this month, the SMC stated: "The e-mails contained statements that were highly derogatory and abusive."

The e-mails attacked the SMC's authority and integrity, and impugned the conduct of the complaints and disciplinary committees, the taxation proceedings, bankruptcy proceedings and execution proceedings for the enforcement of the taxed costs.

Dr Pang did not deny sending the e-mails. In his defence, he said the contents of the e-mails were true and that he was justified in sending them.

The tribunal disagreed.

This article first appeared in The Straits Times.

COURT & CRIME