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'Lover's spat': Woman who sued psychiatrist for prescribing Xanax pills loses suit

Ms Serene Tiong lost her claim that her former lover, Dr Chan Herng Nieng, was medically negligent by prescribing her Xanax in quantities that allegedly caused her to develop an addiction.

'Lover's spat': Woman who sued psychiatrist for prescribing Xanax pills loses suit

Serene Tiong (left) and psychiatrist Dr Chan Herng Nieng, who she tried to sue for prescribing Xanax pills in what a High Court judge described as "a lover's spat". (Photos: Facebook/Serene Tiong, SingHealth Research)

SINGAPORE: A woman who sued a psychiatrist for prescribing Xanax pills in quantities that she claimed caused her to develop an addiction has lost her lawsuit, in what a High Court judge described as "at its core, a lover's spat".

Ms Serene Tiong accused her former lover, psychiatrist Dr Chan Herng Nieng, of medical negligence by purportedly giving her up to 330 tablets from May 2017 that caused her to become addicted to Xanax.

She sought S$250,000 in damages, claiming that she suffered side effects and withdrawal symptoms from taking high dosages of Xanax, and a lifelong dependency on the drug, which is used to treat anxiety.

Justice Tan Siong Thye on Tuesday (Jul 19) ruled against Ms Tiong, finding that she failed to establish that there was medical negligence on a "balance of probabilities", and failed to show that she suffered harm as a result of Dr Chan's actions.

Ms Tiong, a senior business development manager, met Dr Chan around December 2016. They started a relationship early the next month, while she was married. She finalised her divorce in November 2017.

Their relationship ended in May 2018, a month after Ms Tiong discovered WhatsApp exchanges between Dr Chan and another doctor, Dr Julian Ong, that revealed he had been unfaithful to her.

Dr Ong went on to sue Ms Tiong for defaming him by claiming that he and Dr Chan had colluded to take sexual advantage of their patients. He won the case on appeal.

On Tuesday, Justice Tan described the current lawsuit as "the latest episode in Ms Tiong's plot for revenge against the one who spurned her".

"Indeed, the adage that hell hath no fury like a woman scorned best describes the vitriolic actions of Ms Tiong," said the judge.

In his 104-page decision, Justice Tan detailed Ms Tiong's "confusing, contradictory and highly unreliable" evidence at trial, particularly on the number of Xanax tablets Dr Chan purportedly prescribed her.

He said that her conflicting evidence on this critical issue, which she appeared to change "on the fly", was "fatal to her claim".

Instead, the judge found that the version of events given by Dr Chan, who runs his own practice at Capital Mindhealth Clinic, was more consistent with the evidence.

Dr Chan said that he gave Ms Tiong 14 Xanax tablets for short-term use in early May 2018 at her request, after she told him she was experiencing bouts of anxiety.

Justice Tan also cited expert testimony that the risk of dependency associated with Dr Chan's prescription of the Xanax tablets was "very low". He ultimately found that Dr Chan did not breach his duty of care to Ms Tiong.

Ms Tiong also put forth an alternative claim that she suffered a mental and emotional breakdown when she discovered that Dr Chan was having sexual relations with other married women during their relationship.

This claim involved a statement that Dr Chan allegedly made, informing Ms Tiong that "he was committed to having a long-term and exclusive sexual relationship with her", according to court documents.

Justice Tan said this claim raised "interesting questions", namely: "Can one take one's ex-lover to court for his broken promises during the relationship?"

He again ruled against Ms Tiong, finding that she failed to prove Dr Chan had made the alleged statement to her, and that even if he did so, there was no evidence he intended to harm her as they were in a relationship.

Ms Tiong also did not suffer physical harm or any recognised psychiatric illness as a result of Dr Chan's infidelity, the judge said.

Justice Tan described the entire suit as an "abuse of the court process" and rapped Ms Tiong for pursuing an unmeritorious case "just to drag Dr Chan's name through the mud".

"In my view, Ms Tiong displayed a willing readiness to compromise the court process for her own personal vendetta," he said.

"This became crystal clear when she took the stand," added the judge, noting that Ms Tiong exaggerated her answers and "appeared insouciant" when relaying basic facts about the case.

He ordered her to pay costs to Dr Chan, with the amount to be determined through parties' submissions.

He also echoed the Court of Appeal in admonishing Dr Chan and Dr Ong for their conduct revealed in their WhatsApp exchanges about women.

"Doctors such as Dr Chan, who are entrusted with the care of physically or mentally vulnerable patients, are subject to high levels of professional scrutiny in the discharge of their duties," said the judge.

"Dr Chan's disgraceful use of women including Ms Tiong as his sex objects and the disturbing pride with which he gloated about his sexual conquests in the WhatsApp exchanges with Dr Ong suggest that he is a person with serious and grave character defects.

"Dr Chan's conduct in exploiting Ms Tiong and other women for his own perverse desires is debauched, degenerate and highly deserving of censure."

Justice Tan added: "Ultimately, no true winner has emerged from this entire debacle. Although I have ruled against Ms Tiong, Dr Chan has borne, and will continue to bear, the shame of having his wanton and depraved behaviour aired in public for all to see."

Source: CNA/dv(rj)


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