The High Court has dismissed surgeon Susan Lim’s application to stop the Singapore Medical Council (SMC) from setting up a second disciplinary committee to investigate if she had overcharged a Bruneian royal patient. Dr Lim had already faced a disciplinary hearing in 2010 for billing the patient US$20 million for treatment. The three-member panel stepped down in July last year after Dr Lim complained they had prejudged the case. Dr Lim is Asia’s first liver transplant surgeon.
In his 30-page judgment on Thursday, Justice Philip Pillai noted that Dr Lim had also tried to prevent the SMC from any further referral of the same complaint to any disciplinary committee in future. Justice Pillai said that to do this, Dr Lim would have had to prove that the SMC’s decision to refer the complaint to the second disciplinary committee was illegal or biased as she had claimed. She had failed to do this, said Justice Pillai.
Justice Pillai said that what was striking was that Dr Lim did not allege bias by any person or official. There wasn’t even an allegation made against the Ministry of Health’s (MOH) director of medical services, Professor K. Satku, that he had abused his position as director to cause MOH to investigate Dr Lim and to file the complaint against her, said Justice Pillai. Justice Pillai said Dr Lim had “feebly” invited the court to infer actual bias based on circumstances and offered no direct evidence to support her claims.
He said: “It would be startling for a court of law to draw inferences of actual bias other than from direct evidence.” Justice Pillai dismissed her applications. The case has attracted controversy in Singapore, not least because of the eye-popping price tag of US$20 million. At the last hearing in March, it was also revealed that Dr Lim had even written to the Singapore Foreign Minister, warning that details revealed could cause embarrassment in Singapore and Brunei. The ministry had declined comment.