SINGAPORE: Prominent oncologist Dr Ang Peng Tiam has been suspended for eight months on Tuesday (Jun 27) over charges of professional misconduct.
In April 2010, a 55-year-old woman with lung cancer consulted Dr Ang, the medical director of Parkway Cancer Centre, who told her there was “at least a 70 per cent chance that her disease would respond to treatment and achieve control” with chemotherapy and targeted therapy.
Dr Ang, 59, did not offer her the option of surgery – despite the fact that surgery was the preferred initial treatment for patients suffering from the same stage of cancer, according to the Singapore Medical Council (SMC).
The patient underwent the prescribed treatment, but her cancer spread and she died six months later. Her family then lodged a complaint with the SMC against Dr Ang.
Four charges of professional misconduct were brought against him in April 2015. In July 2016, he was convicted of two of the charges by a disciplinary tribunal appointed by the SMC, and fined S$25,000.
Dr Ang appealed to the Court of Three Judges against his conviction. The SMC also appealed for the fine to be substituted with a six-month suspension for each of the two charges.
On Tuesday, the court upheld Dr Ang’s convictions, but allowed the SMC’s appeal and substituted the fine with an eight-month suspension for both charges.
PATIENTS SHOULD BE INFORMED OF VIABLE TREATMENT OPTIONS: COURT
In its judgment, the court said that while doctors should evaluate the pros and cons of various treatments and may depart from guidelines when there are good reasons, patients should still be informed of the viable treatment options available to them.
“A doctor might believe that a particular treatment option is in his patient’s best interests, but ultimately, it is the patient who must make the decision on her treatment,” the court said.
Dr Ang had also admitted before the SMC disciplinary tribunal that surgery was the only prospect of cure for the patient’s cancer, and that she might have up to a 20 per cent chance of cure had she undergone initial surgery.
The court also upheld the disciplinary tribunal’s finding that Dr Ang had offered the patient and her family false hope. Dr Ang had presented an optimistic picture that she was likely to have her disease under control with his prescribed therapy, when he did not in fact have any reasonable basis for such optimism, the SMC said.
On sentencing, the court considered the fact that the SMC had taken four-and-a-half years to serve the notice of inquiry on Dr Ang after it received the complaint against him. It held that the delay had caused Dr Ang anxiety and distress with the proceedings hanging over his head.
The court decided that an appropriate sentence would have been a 16-month suspension, but taking into account the “inordinate delay”, decided to halve the suspension to eight months.