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Doctor suspended from practice, fined for trying to sell drug to non-patient, downloading porn at polyclinic

SINGAPORE — A few months after being fired by the National Healthcare Group for downloading obscene materials at his workplace, Dr Ho Tze Woon attempted to sell an erectile dysfunction drug to a man who was not his patient.

The author has met many bright young men and women wanting to become doctors. "I respect and admire their noble aspirations," he writes. "But I hope they do not enter the profession blindly, and regret their decisions only after they have already spent 10 years in the field."

The author has met many bright young men and women wanting to become doctors. "I respect and admire their noble aspirations," he writes. "But I hope they do not enter the profession blindly, and regret their decisions only after they have already spent 10 years in the field."

  • Dr Ho Tze Woon was suspended for five months and fined S$2,000
  • He had downloaded and stored obscene material in Choa Chu Kang Polyclinic computers from 2014 to 2016
  • After he was fired, he tried to sell an erectile dysfunction drug to a non-patient

 

SINGAPORE — A few months after being fired by the National Healthcare Group for downloading obscene materials at his workplace, Dr Ho Tze Woon attempted to sell an erectile dysfunction drug to a man who was not his patient.

Dr Ho had obtained the medicine for himself from clinics in Singapore and Malaysia, then negotiated prices through phone text messages with his customer.

For his actions, a disciplinary tribunal appointed by the Singapore Medical Council (SMC) sentenced him to a five-month suspension from the register of medical practitioners and a S$2,000 fine in March.

The tribunal’s 18-page judgement was made available on Tuesday (June 1).

Dr Ho was working as a locum — or stand-in — doctor during the tribunal hearing in December last year.

He pleaded guilty to two charges of seeking to supply a regulated medicine or drug to someone who was not his patient in May and October 2017.

A third charge was taken into consideration for sentencing. This was for downloading and storing unauthorised software or executable files, as well as pornographic or obscene materials, to the computers of six consultation rooms at Choa Chu Kang Polyclinic from October 2014 to July 2016.

The polyclinic falls under the National Healthcare Group, which dismissed Dr Ho in February 2017 after conducting an investigation over the IT breach.

In admitting to breaching the SMC’s Ethical Code and Ethical Guidelines, Dr Ho also said he knew that the man he had sold Cialis to, only identified as Mr C, was not his patient.

Cialis is the brand name for Tadalafil, which is used to treat male impotence or erectile dysfunction. It can be given to people only through prescription.

Mr C had refused to accept the medicine in the first instance as the packaging was damaged. The second time round, the transaction was called off as both men could not agree on the price.

Dr Ho’s lawyer argued in mitigation that he had not caused actual harm to Mr C or the wider public, and that Cialis was not an addictive drug such as codeine, commonly found in cough syrups.

While the tribunal agreed with the first point, they found that Dr Ho’s actions would affect public confidence in the medical profession, given that doctors are given the privilege to dispense medicine and drugs only to patients under their care.

“This trust in the medical profession would be impacted because of the callous way Dr Ho disregarded the medical ethics guidelines and rules,” the tribunal noted.

The tribunal also said that he did not appear “entirely altruistic about his intentions”. He had said that he wanted to help Mr C pay less for the Cialis but also stated in his mitigation plea that he may have sought to profit from the sale.

When his first attempt to sell the drug fell through, he “seemed to be more opportunistic” on the second occasion, starting at S$203 and reducing the price to S$190 before Mr C counter-offered with S$180, the tribunal further noted.

By trying to sell the drug less than three months after being fired, there appeared to be a “distinct lack of remorse” for his offences at the polyclinic, it said.

“One could have reasonably expected a professional in his field to reflect on his misconduct, obtain the necessary help, and to try to reacquire and maintain the level of integrity expected of a medical professional.”

Dr Ho’s lawyer argued that it had taken too long for the disciplinary proceedings to begin. However, the tribunal said that the matters were eventually consolidated and that the police needed to make further enquiries and take statements from Mr C.

The tribunal warned that doctors and select healthcare professionals should never take the privilege of dispensing regulated medicine or drugs lightly, and should not take cyber security for granted.

It also ordered Dr Ho to be censured, give a written undertaking to the SMC that he not repeat this conduct, and pay the costs of the disciplinary proceedings.

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SMC doctor suspended erectile dysfunction medicine pornography

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