July 12, 2006I know this journalist - David Boey. He was a frighteningly brilliant military expert who once worked for Jane's Defence. A bit sad to see him now writing articles about SAF doctors who cheat on their MCs.
Ex-SAF doc suspended for falsifying MC
After leaving SAF in disgrace, he isnow censuredby medical council
By David Boey
A YOUNG doctor discharged from the armed forces for falsifying a medical certificate has been suspended from practising by the Singapore Medical Council (SMC).
Former Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) regular, Dr Kevin Ong Shu Shien, 29, was 'discharged with ignominy' - meaning he left SAF service dishonourably - after he pleaded guilty to 'falsification of an official document' under the SAF Act in December 2004.
Dr Ong, who was then a medical officer with the Headquarters Medical Corps, had falsified a medical certificate (MC) in December 2004.
More than 1 1/2 years later, Dr Ong was facing another tribunal, this time from the SMC.
The council said yesterday that it held a disciplinary inquiry on May 29 this year to look into Dr Ong's case and, following the hearing, ordered that he be censured and his medical registration suspended for three months.
This means Dr Ong cannot practise during his suspension period, which began last Thursday.
In a statement, the council's disciplinary committee noted that Dr Ong had 'cooperated with military authorities in their investigation and that he was genuinely contrite for this offence'.
But it explained that the doctor's offence 'was a serious one that breaches the high level of trust that the public places in the profession'.
It said Dr Ong is now serving the remaining period of his national service liability.
Very few doctors have been convicted for falsifying MCs.
Only two cases have made the news since 1990.
In August 1992, a doctor who gave medical certificates to two national servicemen was suspended for one year.
Then, in October 1994, the council suspended another doctor for six months for issuing certificates to six patients without proper medical grounds.
Though doctors rarely go astray, more than 100 people have been brought to book for forging their own MCs since 1990.
Forging an MC is a criminal offence.
The sentence for forging or using a false certificate is up to three years' jail or a fine or both.
Anyway, I wish David Boey had not omitted some rather basic facts in this article. Like - whose MC was it, and how did Dr Kevin Ong actually falsify it. As I see it, some likely scenarios would be:
- (1) he increased the number of days on his own MC;
(2) he backdated his MC, to cover for his own AWOL; or
(3) he sold MCs to SAF servicemen who weren't sick.
Well, all of the above are wrong, and I guess Dr Ong needs to be punished in some way. However, I wonder how such offences can really be said to "breach the high level of trust that the public places in the profession" and why the Singapore Medical Council, in particular, should get involved.
Would you really distrust a doctor, as a professional, because of an offence like the kind that Dr Kevin Ong committed? Personally, I would be more likely to distrust a doctor if he was known to prescribe unsuitable medicines, or make grossly wrong diagnoses, or if he didn't ask what drug allergies I have.
By analogy, Singapore lawyers will easily get suspended or struck off if they are convicted of some offence that involves dishonesty (for example, cheating, forgery or criminal breach of trust). That's because honesty is key for lawyers (they handle large amounts of clients' monies). However, Singapore lawyers do not get suspended or struck off for offences like speeding or drink driving or littering. There isn't any clear connection between such offences and their ability to adhere to professional standards.
So let's assume that Dr Kevin Ong had committed an offence like (1) or (2). The question is - should the SMC care? Does the matter really have any relevance to SMC's role and responsibility? Does Kevin's behaviour really mean that he will not be a good doctor to his patients?
You could also think of this way - if Dr Kevin Ong had falsified not an MC, but a annual leave application form or a parking coupon, should the SMC get involved?
Over to you, dear readers.