SINGAPORE: A doctor who was acquitted of rape and sexual assault after a high-profile trial, he now faces a suspension for improperly prescribing medication and failing to keep adequate patient medical records.
Dr Wee Teong Boo, 71, pleaded guilty in a disciplinary court to 10 counts of improperly prescribing cough mixtures and benzodiazepines – a type of depressants used to treat conditions such as anxiety and depression. ‘insomnia. He also admitted 10 counts of poor record keeping.
This case stems from a 2016 complaint that the Singapore Medical Council (SMC) received from the Ministry of Health, which raised concerns about Dr Wee’s practices in prescribing benzodiazepines and cough mixtures containing codeine.
The court imposed a 20-month suspension on Dr Wee, but the SMC appealed on Thursday November 10 for a longer suspension period of 30 to 36 months.
Acting on behalf of the SMC, attorney Edmund Kronenburg of Braddell Brothers told the Tri-Judge Court that the Disciplinary Tribunal erred in accepting that Dr Wee was not motivated by financial gain.
On the charges of improper record keeping, Mr Kronenburg said Dr Wee’s notes were “largely unreadable”.
He did not take any form of sensible notes for the patients in question, the lawyer said, adding that the SMC could not say what medical conditions 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 reasonable documentation”, while another patient only had the word “anxiety” labeled.
Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, who heard the appeal with Justices Steven Chong and Judith Prakash, said Dr Wee was clearly not giving the drugs away for free.
“There would be an element of profit. The idea that there was no financial incentive behind it – I find it hard to understand,” he said.
Chief Justice Menon asked Mr. Kronenburg why SMC was not seeking an expungement order for Dr. Wee, since SMC’s case was that he had prescribed the drugs to people he knew to be drug addicts.
He said Dr Wee’s explanation when he was first confronted with the case suggested he gave the drugs to manage the patients’ addictions.
“Is this an acceptable thing to do?” asked the Chief Justice. “Because if it’s okay for a doctor to prescribe addictive drugs to feed or manage an addiction, then I would find that surprising.”
Mr. Kronenburg explained that the actual loads relate to exceeding what was prescribed under the guidelines. The charges were not aimed at calling Dr. Wee a trafficker prescribing drugs when he had no reason to do so.
He admitted that the fact that Dr Wee was prescribing drugs to drug addicts came to light during the disciplinary court investigation.
“He saw himself as an alternative to street traffickers,” Chief Justice Menon said. “Just looking at this document (which says this) is fundamentally disturbing. It has nothing to do with exceeding prescribed limits. The reason he exceeded prescribed limits was not because the patient had a bad cough was because he was feeding their addiction.”
The court requested additional submissions from SMC’s attorneys and Dr. Wee’s attorney, Mr. Chooi Jing Yen. The case was adjourned to a later date.