A doctor has been suspended for 12 months and given a penalty of S$10,000 for selling cough syrup to three Malaysian gangsters who were not his patients, the Singapore Medical Council (SMC) said in a press release on Tuesday (Mar 15).
Dr Benny Cheng Shao Lin sold the equivalent of 500 120ml bottles of Dhasedyl cough syrup to three Malaysian gangsters over three occasions in March 2012, earning S$4,000 in total from these sales, SMC said. He is a registered medical practitioner who was practising at Clifford Dispensary Jurong at Block 176 Boon Lay Drive.
According to the Poisons Act, a medical practitioner may supply Dhasedyl without a license only if it is to treat his or her patients.
Dr Cheng pleaded guilty to five criminal charges for selling the cough syrup without a license, as the three gangsters were not his patients at the time of the sales. Another 37 criminal charges against him were also taken into consideration in sentencing, during his trial at the then-Subordinate Courts.
At a Disciplinary Tribunal (DT) inquiry held by SMC on Jan 5, he subsequently pleaded guilty to five charges of having been convicted of an offence "implying defect in character which makes him unfit for his profession", in relation to the criminal convictions.
'CONSCIOUS DECISION' TO TRANSACT WITH GANGSTERS: TRIBUNAL
The DT found that Dr Cheng's offences were serious, and aggravating factors included that the quantity of Dhasedyl sold was not a small quantum, that the sales had continued for a period of three-and-a-half months, that he had profited from the sales and must have known that the cough syrup would end up being sold to members of the public.
Agreeing with the Counsel for SMC that Dr Cheng "had abused the trust that society reposes in doctors to dispense medicine responsibly", the DT said a "clear and unequivocal message" had to be sent to both the medical community and the public that such offences cannot be tolerated.
In addition, the DT placed little weight on Dr Cheng’s argument that he had sold the Dhasedyl to the gangsters out of "grave fear and duress" that were caused by their threats, SMC said.
The DT was of the view that Dr Cheng had made a "conscious decision" to transact with the gangsters "without any regard to the potential harm that could be caused to the public by the indiscriminate peddling of poisons by these people", as he had sufficient time to think over the demands of the gangsters over a few days and had ample time to report the matter and seek assistance from the authorities, it added.
However, the SMC noted that the DT did accord some weight to the fact that Dr Cheng decided to close his clinic in early April 2012 to avoid further encounters with the gangsters.
Aside from the suspension and fine, Dr Cheng was also censured and ordered to pay the costs and expenses of and incidental to the inquiry. He was also required to give a written undertaking to the SMC that he would not engage in the same or similar conduct again.
His suspension took effect on Feb 17 this year and will run to Feb 16, 2017.