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Singapore Medical Council ‘not aware’ of any action taken against man who deceived psychiatrist

SINGAPORE — No action appears to have been taken against the caller who posed as a patient’s husband to deceive psychiatrist Soo Shuenn Chiang into writing a memo, even while the authorities are examining the case.

The Singapore Medical Council does not know of any action being taken against the caller who deceived a psychiatrist to get memo about a patient.

The Singapore Medical Council does not know of any action being taken against the caller who deceived a psychiatrist to get memo about a patient.

SINGAPORE — No action appears to have been taken against the caller who posed as a patient’s husband to deceive psychiatrist Soo Shuenn Chiang into writing a memo, even while the authorities are examining the case.

Responding to TODAY’s queries on Monday (March 11), the Singapore Medical Council (SMC) said that it is “not aware of any action taken against the caller”.

Dr Soo of the National University Hospital (NUH) was fined S$50,000 for failing to verify the caller’s identity before he issued the memo to refer the patient to the Institute of Mental Health (IMH).

The caller, who was really the patient’s brother, later used that memo to successfully get a personal protection order against the patient.

SMC said last week that its disciplinary tribunal has found Dr Soo guilty of failing to maintain patient confidentiality.

The decision sparked an outcry among doctors here, with petitions drawing thousands of signatures.

The Ministry of Health later told TODAY that it is looking into the tribunal’s judgement.

A POSSIBLE CHEATING OFFENCE

Lawyers told TODAY that the caller could have committed an offence of cheating by impersonating another.

Mr Vijai Parwani, managing director of law firm Parwani Law LLC, said that the patient’s brother could have committed an offence of “cheating by personation” under Section 416 of the Penal Code.

The Penal Code sets out what constitutes cheating, which includes deceiving a person to “deliver any property” to another.

Mr Parwani said that the memo would come under the definition of property, and Dr Soo or the patient would be entitled to make a police report as they are victims of this “fraudulent deception”.

Agreeing, lawyer Ronald Wong of Covenant Chambers LLC, another law firm, said that certain elements would need to be fulfilled, such as whether the act caused damage or harm.

The disclosure of the patient’s personal information was likely to have caused damage or harm to the patient’s mind, Mr Wong said.

The patient or NUH could lodge a police complaint, he added.

Mr Rajan Supramaniam, managing director of Hilborne Law LLC, said that the patient’s brother had taken “all the preparatory steps” to deceive not only Dr Soo, but also the Family Court which granted the personal protection order.

“He had already formed the intention to deceive.”

Mr Supramaniam added that NUH or the patient could possibly make a police report against the caller.

If Dr Soo were to file a case against the caller, it will likely be a civil suit to claim damages for his reputation being tarnished, Mr Supramaniam said.

NUH declined to comment when asked by TODAY if the hospital has taken action against the caller.

ABOUT THE CASE

On Jan 19, 2015, a female patient was admitted to the NUH for an overdose of a pain-relief drug.

She was noted to have a risk of self-harm, given that she has had depression before.

Two months after she was discharged, Dr Soo received a call from the woman’s brother posing as her husband, claiming that she was suicidal and needed an assessment at the IMH.

Dr Soo, who is the clinical director of NUH’s department of psychological medicine, did not check the caller’s identity by asking for his name, identity-card or contact numbers, and comparing these against the hospital’s records.

The memo he wrote, addressed to ambulance crew or the police officer-in-charge, contained her confidential medical information. He then instructed his clinic's staff member to give it to the caller.

In August 2015, the patient filed a complaint against Dr Soo.

Dr Soo’s lawyers argued that it was an “honest oversight” in the course of seeing 17 patients that day.

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