Doctor acquitted of rape faces suspension for overprescribing medications and medical malpractice

Dr Wee Teong Boo admitted to inappropriately prescribing cough mixtures and benzodiazepines.

SINGAPORE: A doctor who was acquitted of rape and sexual assault after a high-profile trial now faces suspension for inappropriately prescribing medication and failing to keep adequate patient medical records.

Dr Wee Teong Boo, 71, pleaded guilty in a disciplinary tribunal to 10 charges of inappropriately prescribing cough mixtures and benzodiazepines – a type of depressant drugs used to treat conditions like anxiety and insomnia. He also admitted to 10 charges of inadequate record keeping.

This case stems from a 2016 complaint that the Singapore Medical Council (SMC) received from the Ministry of Health, which was concerned about Dr Wee’s practices in prescribing benzodiazepines and cough mixtures containing codeine. 

The tribunal imposed a 20-month suspension on Dr Wee, but the SMC on Thursday (Nov 10) appealed for a higher suspension period of 30 to 36 months.

Acting on behalf of the SMC, lawyer Edmund Kronenburg from Braddell Brothers told the Court of Three Judges that the disciplinary tribunal had erred in accepting that Dr Wee was not motivated by financial gain.

On the charges of inadequate record-keeping, Mr Kronenburg said Dr Wee’s notes were “largely illegible”.

He did not make any sensible form of notes for the patients in question, said the lawyer, adding that the SMC could not tell what medical condition the patients actually had.

Pointing to the notes written for different patients, the lawyer said that for patient 1, only the word “cough” was written. For another patient, there was “no sensible documentation whatsoever”, while another patient had only the word “anxiety” tagged to them.

Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, who heard the appeal along with Justices Steven Chong and Judith Prakash, said Dr Wee clearly was not giving away the medications for free.

“There would be a profit element. The idea that there was no financial incentive behind this – I find difficult to understand,” he said.

Chief Justice Menon questioned Mr Kronenburg on why SMC was not seeking a striking-off order for Dr Wee, since SMC’s case was that he had been prescribing the medicines to people he knew were addicts.

He said that Dr Wee’s explanation when he was first confronted with this case suggested that he gave the medications to manage the patients’ addictions.

“Is this an acceptable thing to do?” asked the Chief Justice. “Because if it is acceptable for a doctor to prescribe addictive medication in order to feed or manage an addiction, then I would find that surprising.”

Mr Kronenburg explained that the actual charges are for exceeding what was prescribable under the guidelines. The charges were not aimed at calling Dr Wee a trafficker prescribing medication when he had no basis to do so.

He admitted that the fact that Dr Wee was prescribing medications to addicts had emerged during the course of the disciplinary tribunal’s inquiry.

“He saw himself as an alternative to street traffickers,” said Chief Justice Menon. “Just looking at that document (that says this) it is fundamentally troubling. It has nothing to do with exceeding prescribed limits. The reason he exceeded the prescribed limits was not because the patient had a bad cough, it was because he was feeding their dependency.”

The court called for further submissions from both SMC’s lawyers and Dr Wee’s lawyer, Mr Chooi Jing Yen. The case was adjourned to a later date.

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