Healing the Divide founder Iris Koh seeks permission to travel abroad for alternative cancer treatment while on bail
- The founder of an anti-vaccine group applied to the courts for permission to leave Singapore for "alternative" medical treatment
- A judge asked for more details and adjourned the matter to next week
- Iris Koh has been diagnosed with thyroid cancer
- She was charged in January with conspiring to defraud the Ministry of Health
- She is also accused of refusing to sign and tearing up a copy of her charge sheet
SINGAPORE — Iris Koh, the founder of controversial anti-vaccine group Healing the Divide, sought permission from a district court on Friday (June 17) to travel to Malaysia in order to seek "alternative" medical treatment for her thyroid cancer.
However, a judge asked for more details of her treatment after noting that her condition does not appear to be life-threatening at the moment, based on her current documentation.
Koh made the request to leave Singapore while she is on bail for an ongoing court case.
The 46-year-old faces a criminal charge of conspiring with a doctor to defraud the Ministry of Health (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.
When she was first hauled to court in January, she was denied bail twice and warded in Singapore General Hospital (SGH) for hyperthyroidism, a pre-existing condition for her.
She was also diagnosed with Graves' disease, an autoimmune disease that affects the thyroid gland. It is a common cause of hyperthyroidism.
She has remained out on a S$20,000 bail since Feb 4. Her husband Raymond Ng, who serves as her bailor, was also present in court.
On Friday, her new defence counsel Wee Pan Lee told the court that SGH doctors found cancer in a thyroid nodule, which is an unusual growth of cells in the thyroid gland.
She was then advised to undergo surgery to remove her thyroid glands. However, she wants a second opinion from foreign doctors to "find a way to save" them, Mr Wee said.
She has therefore made appointments at Mahkota Medical Centre in the city of Malacca, as well as at Aenon Health Care in the western Malaysian state of Negeri Sembilan, Mr Wee added.
Koh sought to travel there by car and will be in Malaysia for a month from Sunday to July 22. The programme at Mahkota runs until June 29 and a doctor there will recommend a course of therapy treatment at Aenon, Mr Wee told the court.
In response, Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Jiang Ke-Yue asked for clarifications to firm up the prosecution's position on Koh's application.
The prosecutor said that the defence has provided supporting documents that "raise more questions than answers", which "lends itself to the inference that there could be a potential flight risk".
He told the court that he has asked Mr Wee for details on the nature of Koh’s treatment, whether she has explored alternative treatment options in Singapore, and the need to go to two places in Malaysia for a month.
DPP Jiang said that the prosecution does not wish to stand in Koh's way to seek alternative treatment of her choosing. However, he argued that the documents do not show any link between the two medical institutions in Malaysia.
Mr Wee also filed a document this morning from a third Malaysian institution — Spectrum Of Life Integrated Wellness Centre in Kuala Lumpur. DPP Jiang said that the lawyer has similarly not explained how it is linked to the other institutions.
When the prosecutor questioned why the application and documents were filed at the eleventh hour, Mr Wee said that Koh had been "devastated" by her diagnosis.
"Upon recommendation that there is an alternative, she seized the chance but was unable to go. This doctor was prepared to see her... That's why we made the application as soon as possible," the lawyer added.
District Judge Ng Peng Hong said that based on the documents he was given, Koh's condition "doesn't appear to be life-threatening at this point".
He then agreed with the prosecution that more details of her treatment should be given. The case will be heard again on June 22.
THE CASE INVOLVING FAKE VACCINE SHOTS
Koh is said to have worked with general practitioner Jipson Quah to defraud MOH between July last year and January this year, by agreeing to dishonestly make false representations to MOH that people were vaccinated with the Sinopharm vaccine when they were not.
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 then uploaded false vaccination statuses into the National Immunisation Registry system of MOH. He also purportedly charged up to S$1,500 for these fake jabs.
Quah is said to have conspired with Chua and a woman named Mehrajunnisha to lie to MOH that she received the Sinopharm vaccine when she did not. It is unclear if Mehrajunnisha was a member of Healing the Divide.
A 43-year-old Australian, David Christopher Newton, was charged last week with conspiring with Quah and Chua to receive a vaccination certificate when he had not received the Sinopharm vaccine.
Quah 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.