Court allows Healing the Divide founder Iris Koh to leave Singapore to seek alternative cancer treatment
- The founder of an anti-vaccine group applied to the courts for permission to travel to Malaysia for alternative medical treatment
- A judge granted Iris Koh's request but imposed an additional bail of S$30,000, on top of her current S$20,000
- She will leave Singapore on Friday and return in mid-July for thyroid cancer treatment
- She currently faces charges of conspiring to defraud the Ministry of Health and tearing up a copy of her charge sheet
SINGAPORE — A district court has granted an application by Iris Koh, the founder of controversial anti-vaccine group Healing the Divide, to leave the country for Malaysia to seek alternative medical treatment for her thyroid cancer.
On Thursday (June 23), District Judge Ng Peng Hong imposed an additional bail sum of S$30,000 for her to travel to Malacca and get a second opinion from a doctor there.
The 46-year-old will leave Singapore on Friday and return on July 17, one day before her case is heard again in court, said her lawyer Wee Pan Lee.
She was diagnosed shortly after being charged in January with conspiring to defraud the Ministry of Health (MOH) over fake-Covid-19 vaccination records.
She has been out on a S$20,000 bail since Feb 4. All accused persons on bail must get permission from the courts to leave the jurisdiction.
Koh made the travel request last Friday through her lawyer, saying she wanted to go to Malaysia for a month.
However, the case was adjourned to Thursday after District Judge Ng and Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Jiang Ke-Yue asked for more details about the nature of her proposed treatment.
DOES NOT WANT TO DAMAGE VOCAL CHORDS
On Thursday, Koh's defence counsel, Mr Wee, said his client's plans had changed. Koh previously wanted to travel to two medical institutes in Malaysia — Malacca and the western Malaysian state of Negeri Sembilan — but now plans to only go to Malacca.
Mr Wee elaborated on his client’s unease over undergoing surgery to remove her thyroid glands, a treatment which was recommended by Singapore General Hospital when she was diagnosed.
He told the court that since last week, she has also seen two other doctors who have recommended the same surgery.
The lawyer said: “My client is apprehensive about this treatment because she is trained in music, trained in singing and she is a trained vocal coach. Before her arrest, she earned her living as a choir conductor, as a singer in the choir, and teaching singing and giving vocal coaching lessons.
“The fear is that this surgery, which is to be performed very near the vocal cords, might affect her voice. As a result of that, she is seeking an alternative.”
Mr Wee asked for permission for Koh to travel to Malacca to see if she’s suitable for an alternative treatment plan.
In response, DPP Jiang said he did not object to Koh’s application but sought additional conditions, including a further cash bail sum of S$40,000.
The prosecutor also reiterated his concerns about “gaps” in Mr Wee’s supporting documentation. He had previously flagged discrepancies between documents given by the medical institutes in Malaysia, including a third one in Kuala Lumpur.
DPP Jiang acknowledged that Koh now only wants to seek treatment from one clinic, but he said she has “given no explanation” about the others.
He also said that SGH has given an update confirming Koh’s cancer diagnosis and the “need for thyroid removal surgery urgently or as soon as possible”.
“I note the diagnosis was as early on as in March, and since then there has been no follow-up for conventional or alternative treatments. Then today, we are faced with this,” DPP Jiang added.
Mr Wee then asked for a smaller additional bail of S$20,000, saying that S$40,000 was “punishing” for Koh.
District Judge Ng ultimately decided to impose an additional S$30,000 bail that can be furnished by another bailor. He also gave the following conditions for Koh to abide by:
- To give a complete itinerary before travelling
- To remain contactable by the investigation officer
- To give full details of where she is staying in Malaysia, as well as her contact number there, to the investigation officer
- To provide supporting documents on her alternative treatment and surrender her passport to the authorities upon returning to Singapore
ACCUSED OF CONSPIRING TO DEFRAUD MOH
Koh currently faces a criminal charge of conspiring with a doctor, Jipson Quah, to defraud the MOH over fake Covid-19 vaccination records and another charge of obstructing a police officer by refusing to sign and tearing up a charge sheet.
Quah and his clinic assistant, Thomas Chua Cheng Soon, have also been charged with fraud by false representation. Both men remain out on bail.
The police previously said that Koh had allegedly referred clients, believed to be members of Healing the Divide, to Quah and had also suggested administering something else in lieu of the vaccine to patients.
Quah has been suspended from practising medicine for 18 months, after the Singapore Medical Council found that he allegedly administered saline solution to some 15 people in place of a Covid-19 vaccine.
He does not face any charges of conspiring with Koh at the moment. However, prosecutors had said that investigations were ongoing and that they were unsure if more alleged offences would be uncovered.
If convicted of conspiring to dishonestly make false representations to MOH, Koh could be jailed up to 20 years or fined, or punished with both.
Those convicted of obstructing a public servant in discharge of their public functions can be jailed up to three months or fined up to S$2,500, or both.