Doctor struck off register for giving patient's employer confidential information, lying about credentials

Doctor struck off register for giving patient's employer confidential information, lying about credentials

FILE PHOTO: Outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Britain
FILE PHOTO: A Junior Doctor holds his stethoscope during a patient visit on Ward C22 at The Royal Blackburn Teaching Hospital in East Lancashire, following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Blackburn, Britain, May 14, 2020. REUTERS/Hannah McKay/Pool/File Photo

SINGAPORE: A doctor was struck off the register on Wednesday (Nov 4) for breaching medical confidentiality by providing protected information to a patient's employer and for giving misleading and inaccurate information about his credentials.

The Singapore Medical Council (SMC) had appealed against a 18-month suspension ordered by a disciplinary tribunal, pushing for Dr Chua Shunjie to be struck off the register of provisionally registered medical practitioners instead.

The High Court granted the SMC's appeal, noting that it was "unusual" and this was likely the first time disciplinary proceedings against a provisionally registered medical practitioner came before the High Court.

Chua had graduated from the Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School in 2015 and was granted provisional registration by SMC, which allowed him to practise as a house officer and obtain the certificate of experience needed to apply either for full or conditional registration. 

However, a complaint was made against him in May 2016, and six charges were filed against him under the Medical Registration Act.

Chua pleaded guilty to four of them and had the other two taken into consideration.

In April 2016, he was posted to the general surgery team at Ng Teng Fong General Hospital. He examined and treated a patient there, handling the discharge.

After the patient was discharged, he returned for physiotherapy sessions and approached Chua as he was unhappy with the length of medical leave he had been issued.

After a phone conversation with the patient, Chua issued an extended medical certificate without meeting the patient or conducting any assessment.

The patient's employer later approached Chua to clarify the patient's condition, who had refused to resume work and made a claim for loss of income based on the medical cert issued.

Without the patient's consent, Chua issued a letter to the patient's employer using the hospital's letterhead, informing the employer of the patient's medical condition, diagnosis and treatment.

Chua also presented himself in an author biography in a research letter to the British Journal of Dermatology as "Chua Shunjie, BEng, MD, National Skin Centre, Singapore".

However, Chua was not affiliated with the National Skin Centre, nor was the study affiliated with it.

He also sent letters to the Journal de Deutschen Dermatologischen Gesellschaft and the Obstetrics & Gynecology Journal claiming that they had been co-authored by "Mark Pitts" and "Peter Lemark", when there were no such co-authors.

Chua also made applications seeking approval to conduct two studies, claiming he was a member of Singapore General Hospital's Dermatology Department, when he was not in any way involved with them.

The disciplinary tribunal took place last year and Chua was given a suspension of 18 months, but the SMC appealed against this.

Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, who delivered the verdict, said the court did not find Chua's plea of guilt a sign of genuine contrition.

In his explanation to the complaints committee, Chua had categorically denied the allegations about the false information, claiming they were the by-product of inexperience and tried to convince the committee that the fictitious co-authors were real.

"The gravity of Chua’s misconduct calls for the harshest possible sanction in order to meet the ends of general deterrence and deter would-be offenders from engaging in similar misconduct in the future," said the Chief Justice. 

"This would serve to protect public confidence and uphold the standing of the medical profession."

Source: CNA/ll(ta)