The Singapore Medical Council (SMC) has suspended surgeon Woffles Wu for 4 months for the traffic incident in 2012. Here is the full statement from the SMC:
1. The Singapore Medical Council (“SMC”)’s Disciplinary Tribunal (“DT”) held a disciplinary inquiry on 21 February 2014 against Dr Wu Tze-Liang Woffles (“Dr Wu”).
2. Dr Wu, who is 54 years old, is a registered plastic surgeon practising at the Woffles Wu Aesthetic Surgery & Laser Centre at all material times.
3. On 12 June 2012, Dr Wu was charged in the Subordinate Courts of Singapore with two counts under section 81(3) of the Road Traffic Act (Cap. 276) of abetting another person, a 83 year old male, to furnish misleading information to the Traffic Police Department, by procuring this person to falsely inform the Traffic Police Department that he was the driver of a vehicle (“Vehicle”) on 11 September 2005 and 10 November 2006, when Dr Wu was aware that the information was false as this person had never driven the Vehicle at any of the material times.
4. On 12 June 2012, Dr Wu pleaded guilty to the charge of abetment in relation to the incident on 10 November 2006, where the Vehicle was found to be travelling at 91 km/h, above the speed limit of 70 km/h. The second charge relating to the earlier incident in 2005 was taken into consideration for purposes of sentencing. He was sentenced to a fine of $1,000.00 under section 81(7) of the Road Traffic Act.
5. Upon his conviction, Dr Wu was referred to the SMC. Before this DT, he faced one charge of being convicted of an offence involving fraud or dishonesty punishable under section 53(2) read with section 53(1)(a) of the Medical Registration Act (Cap. 174). Dr Wu pleaded guilty to the charge before the DT and was accordingly convicted.
6. In its Grounds of Decision, the DT highlighted that it discharged a rather different role from that of a court of law. It noted that in arriving at an appropriate sanction, the DT’s role was to consider what penalties would be of sufficient general and specific deterrence such that no registered medical practitioner would want to take the risk to commit such an offence that would lower the standing of the medical profession.
7. The DT found that there were several aggravating factors in this case. The DT noted that while the speeding offences were clearly only traffic related offences, the offence that Dr Wu was convicted for was in substance not merely an offence under the Road Traffic Act. The DT stressed that it is incorrect to make light of an offence under the Road Traffic Act on the premise that it had no impact on Dr Wu’s medical practice. Dr Wu’s wrongful act in allowing another person to take the rap on his behalf is a transgression involving dishonesty with some degree of premeditation, preparation and, in its view, was an act calculated to ‘save his own skin’.
8. The DT was of the view that Dr Wu was subverting the course of justice through his act of dishonesty and that this was a conduct that the medical profession would not condone, with the DT taking pains to emphasise that “every medical practitioner is expected to carry the hallmarks of integrity and honesty whether in his professional or personal capacity”.
9. Dr Wu’s seniority and standing in the medical profession was also found to be an aggravating factor in the present case, as Dr Wu had, instead of setting a good example for younger practitioners to emulate, tarnished the good name of the profession.
10. The DT also felt that Dr Wu was not entirely remorseful as he had admitted (in a personal address to the DT during mitigation) that he had not given a second thought to what he did and that he believed it was a common practice to furnish false information to the Traffic Police for such offences.
11. Having considered the nature of the charge, the submissions and relevant precedents cited, and even after taking note of Dr Wu’s cooperation with the authorities and his early plea of guilt, as well as his many contributions to society and the medical profession, the DT concluded that a sentence of suspension was warranted in this case especially since it was an offence involving fraud and/or dishonesty. In its view, an appropriate term of suspension would “deter like-minded medical practitioners from allowing others to take the rap on their behalf whether in the context of the Road Traffic Act or otherwise”. No fine was imposed by the DT given that the suspension was deemed to already be financially punitive and given that the underlying offence committed was not financially motivated.
12. In light of all the circumstances, the DT ordered that Dr Wu:-
(a) Be suspended from practice for a period of 4 months;
(b) Be censured;
(c) Give a written undertaking to the SMC that he would not engage in the conduct complained of or any similar conduct; and
(d) Pay the costs and expenses of and incidental to the proceedings, including the costs of the solicitors to the SMC.
13. The DT also ordered that the grounds of decision be published.
14. Dr Wu’s 4-month suspension took effect from 24 March 2014 to 23 July 2014 (both dates inclusive).