A surgeon in private practice, Dr Edward Foo Chee Boon, was suspended for a year after overdosing a patient and not sending her to intensive care when her condition worsened.
The patient, who was admitted for surgery on 30 January 2012 to have her uterus, cervix, ovaries and fallopian tubes removed, died on 4 February that year under Dr Foo’s care.
Following that, the surgeon was told that a complaint was made against him in 2014, but the hearing only started in 2018.
During the hearing in 2018, an expert witness indicated that the patient was “a very small-size lady with a weight of 31.7kg on admission” and had a history of chronic diarrhea, adding that taking excessive doses of the medication she was given by Dr Foo could be fatal.
Dr Foo was found guilty of three charges. The first charge was for poor note-taking, which he pleaded guilty to and was given a six months suspension. The second charge was for giving the patient an excessive dose of the solution to clear her bowels with six months suspension, while the third charge was for not sending the patient to intensive care with a one-year suspension.
Dr Foo contested the latter two charges.
Based on the charges against Dr Foo, despite knowing or ought to know that the signs of clinical deterioration required the patient to be sent to for intensive monitoring in either the intensive care unit (ICU) or high-dependency unit (HDU), the surgeon refused to send the patient because of her financial situation.
“Had the patient been sent to either the ICU or HDU for intensive monitoring on Feb 3, 2012, her condition could have been better managed and she could have received timely treatment such that her chances of survival could have been increased,” the charge against Dr Foo read.
Another expert witness said Dr Foo failed to prioritize the patient’s safety and health and only concerned with her financial problems.
“Such an irrelevant concern prevailed right from the beginning on admission till the time when the patient’s life was in grave danger,” the witness said.
Due to the time taken by the Singapore Medical Council to settle the case, the penalty was reduced to a one-year suspension.
Furthermore, the tribunal had classified the harm done to the patient as “moderate” when considering the one-year suspension for the charge of not sending the patient to intensive care, The Straits Times reported.
Background of the patient’s case
In January 2012, Dr Foo did a colonoscopy on the patient and found that she was suffering from a cancerous tumor.
On 30 January 2012, the patient was admitted for surgery to remove her uterus, cervix, ovaries and fallopian tubes. Dr Foo had ordered four doses of a solution to clear her bowels.
The manufacturers said a maximum of two doses of the solution should be given 10 to 12 hours apart.
In The Straits Times report, it was highlighted that Dr Foo gave the first dose to the patient at 4.50 pm and the second at 6.30 pm. Two more doses were ordered at 8 am and 9 am the next day. However, he did not give her the fourth dose due to her complaining of chest pain after taking the third dose.
The patient was also given potassium replacement for six hours when her potassium level was low during the kidney and liver function test.
The surgery took place on 31 January 2012 at 7.45 pm. Two days later, the patient complained of pain in her upper abdomen.
On 3 February 2012, the patient had a fever of 39.1 degrees Celsius, abnormally low blood pressure, a rapid heartbeat, decreasing oxygen saturation and shortness of breath.
Tragically, the patient collapsed at 2.15 am the next day and died at 4.45 am.
Dr Foo also involved in the liposuction death case in 2014
This isn’t the first of Dr Foo’s patients who had died. He also treated Mandy Yeong who died during a liposuction operation in 2013.
The 44-year-old patient Mandy Yeong underwent liposuction operation on 28 June 2013 to remove fat from her abdomen to be used to smoothen the hollows in her thighs, The Straits Times reported.
The two-hour operation ended at about 2 pm. At 2.54 pm, the clinic called for an ambulance when the patient began to feel unwell, coughed and collapsed.
The State Coroner classified the death as misadventure, however, the family of Madam Mandy is pursuing a civil suit against the surgeon for negligence.
The family’s lawyer Kuah Boon Theng filed against the doctor for neglecting the monitoring of the patient’s vitals – such as heart rate, blood pressure, and oxygen saturation levels, Asiaone reported. The lawyer also said that the surgeon may not have fully complied with procedural regulations.
Netizens slammed Singapore’s law for giving Dr Foo only one-year suspension
Following the death cases that linked to Dr Foo, netizens commented on the article shared by The Straits Times on Facebook, slamming the tribunal for giving the surgeon only one year of suspension after he overdosed a patient.
One commenter said the light punishment speaks the volume of the Hippocratic oath and unserved justice.
Some commenters suggested the surgeon should be suspended permanently instead of only one year.
While others urged for his license to be revoked.