Council rejects dentist's plea of guilt for serious negligence
It wasn't satisfied his conduct amounted to serious negligence, fines him $10,000 for 'poor note-taking'
The Singapore Dental Council (SDC) has rejected a dentist's plea that he had been guilty of serious negligence.
Instead, it only took Dr Wang Kit Man to task for "poor note-taking" and fined him $10,000.
The SDC's disciplinary committee took this step after the landmark case of medical doctor Lim Lian Arn.
In July, Dr Lim was fined $100,000 by the Singapore Me-dical Council (SMC) for not telling a patient about the side effects of a steroid injection.
The case went up to the Court of Three Judges, which exonerated Dr Lim and said the SMC's verdict had been a miscarriage of justice.
In delivering that verdict, Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon had said - among other things - that a disciplinary committee does not have to accept a doctor's guilty plea.
He had also said that falling short of accepted standards is not always the same thing as professional misconduct.
In Dr Wang's case, the SDC's disciplinary committee said it did not wish to "repeat any of the missteps in that case" and was unable to accept Dr Wang's guilty plea.
A patient's husband had filed a complaint in January 2017 with the SDC against Dr Wang, who had carried out a tooth implant, for failing to give her proper care.
After getting the doctor's explanation, notes, X-rays and photographs of the patient's tooth, the SDC filed five charges against Dr Wang, who worked at Q&M Dental Surgery (Simei MRT).
Dr Wang was also charged with failing to manage the patient's pain following the implant which he said was due to sinusitis, without determining the actual cause.
Taking its cue from the Court of Three Judges - which is the ultimate authority for professional disciplinary hearings - the SDC's lawyer amended one of the charges from professional misconduct to serious negligence.
The SDC's counsel also dropped two of the charges to do with the dentist's lack of proper advice to the patient, and his post-operative care of her. Another charge that was dropped, but taken into consideration during the hearing, was his post-implant note taking.
Even so, the disciplinary committee decided it was unable to accept the plea of guilt on the charge of serious negligence because it was not satisfied that his conduct "amounted to such serious negligence that it objectively portrayed an abuse of the privileges" of a dentist.
Eventually, it decided to proceed with the charge that he had kept poor records. It found his handwritten records "were in many places, wholly illegible".
The committee said Dr Wang's record keeping was so poor "that he was either simply indifferent to the patient's welfare or indifferent to his own professional duties".
Nonetheless, it did not have an impact on his treatment of the patient, the committee said.
The pain that the patient suffered after the implant and the failure of the implant were atypical and not caused by Dr Wang's substandard record keeping, it concluded.
The committee also gave him credit for preventing potential harm when he correctly referred her to an oral surgeon.
Deciding that his poor record keeping did not justify the maximum $50,000 fine, the SDC fined Dr Wang $10,000 and ordered him to pay legal costs for the SDC as well as promise not to re-offend.