Singapore doctor suspended six months for misconduct in breast enhancement case

Singapore's Supreme Court. — Today file pic
Singapore's Supreme Court. — Today file pic

SINGAPORE, Jan 11 — A general practitioner who injected unapproved gel fillers into a patient’s breasts and later inappropriately prescribed her antibiotics has been suspended for six months.

Aesthetics doctor Calvin Chan Heang Kng was to have been suspended for a year, but the disciplinary tribunal halved his term because of the inordinate delay in proceedings by the Singapore Medical Council.

The council – which released the tribunal’s grounds of decision yesterday – notified Dr Chan of the complaint against him in Dec 2012, but only served him the notice of inquiry three years and four months later, in April 2016.

In August 2008 and July 2009, Dr Chan injected Aqualift Hydrophilic Gel filler material into both the unnamed patient’s breasts.

There were no acceptable published clinical studies on the safety of the procedure or the filler; they should only have been performed or used as part of a clinical trial.

Applications to the Health Sciences Authority by the product owner in 2007 and 2009 to register the gel were not approved.

The gel filler is no longer in the Singapore market and breast filler procedures like the one Dr Chan performed have been prohibited since Aug 2016.

In April 2010, the patient was lactating and developed mastitis (painful inflammation of tissue) in her right breast. Dr Chan inappropriately prescribed her several classes of antibiotics without performing a swab for bacterial culture.

The patient made a complaint in August 2012.

Dr Chan made “far too many assumptions about the safety of the Aqualift Hydrophilic Gel product, was overly hasty and ignored guidelines in carrying out the (breast filler) procedure and was sloppy and haphazard in his medical management of the patient”, noted the tribunal.

His management of her mastitis - which included four incision and drainage procedures – caused her unnecessary pain and prolonged her suffering, said the tribunal.

Being relatively new to aesthetic medical practice at the time, he should have exercised even more caution, said the three-member tribunal chaired by Professor Sonny Wang Yee Tang, a respiratory and critical care medicine expert.

Dr Chan pleaded guilty to failing to obtain informed consent, failing to treat the patient according to generally accepted methods, and failing to exercise due care and competence in managing the patient’s mastitis.

His lawyers said he made the honest mistake of assuming the gel filler was generally accepted “when he saw that other doctors were also using (it) at the material time”, according to the grounds of decision. They had sought a fine of S$30,000 to S$40,000 (RM89775 to RM119,700) instead of a suspension.

Dr Chan, who has 16 years’ experience and whose clinic is in Wheelock Place, has since improved his consent-taking and documentation of patients’ medical records.

He now focuses on non-invasive, evidence-based procedures. He began his suspension on January 4. — TODAY

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