9 Jul 2004

Potential dangers of accepting future posts in Singapore



"Peter Sever of Imperial College London said the UK Royal College of Physicians "should consider advising its members of the potential dangers of accepting future posts in Singapore" because of a "lack of fairness" that "can impact upon an individual's professional reputation".


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Medical group tells doctors not to work in Singapore

By John Burton in Singapore
Published: July 8 2004 17:14 | Last Updated: July 8 2004 17:49

A medical watchdog group has suggested that foreign doctors should
not work in Singapore following an ethics dispute between a UK
medical researcher and the scientist daughter of Lee Kuan Yew, the
city-state's senior politician.

The recommendation by the UK-based Medical Protection Society (MPS), which provides advice to doctors facing legal problems arising from clinical practice in more than 40 countries, could set back efforts by Singapore to attract medical researchers in its goal to become a leading global biomedical centre.

The case concerned Simon Shorvon, who served as director of
Singapore's National Neuroscience Institute (NNI) until he was
dismissed in April 2003 for allegedly testing 127 patients without
their consent. The testing was carried out as part of a research
project on Parkinson's disease and other neurological conditions.

The allegations were brought to the attention of Singapore's health authorities by Lee Wei Ling, Mr Lee's daughter, who resigned from the project and was appointed to succeed Dr Shorvon as NNI director at the start of this year.

In a sharply worded statement, MPS criticised a report by the
National Healthcare Group, NNI's parent, that led to the dismissal of Dr Shorvon, who works as a professor at the UK's Institute of
Neurology.

Two experts appointed by the MPS said they "fully supported" Dr
Shorvon's actions.

"I can see no evidence that Dr Shorvon has behaved inappropriately or unethically," said Niall Quinn of University College London and an authority on Parkinson's disease research.

He described the inquiry report as "appallingly slanted" and its
contents were "utterly disproportionate to the reality of the events reported".

Peter Sever of Imperial College London said the UK Royal College of Physicians "should consider advising its members of the potential dangers of accepting future posts in Singapore" because of a "lack of fairness" that "can impact upon an individual's professional reputation".

"I find the accusation nothing short of absurd. It is hard to avoid the conclusion that Dr Shorvon fell victim to internal power
struggles and personal vendettas," said David Goldstein, a geneticist at the University College London, who worked on Dr Shorvon's research team in Singapore.

In an interview with the Singapore Straits Times in January, Dr Lee rejected allegations by "detractors" that she had acted against Dr Shorvon to take over his post.

"They must be completely uninformed about the seriousness of
Shorvon's misdeeds and about my character and goals in life.

"I would have preferred someone else who is competent, dedicated and willing to do the job" as NNI director, she said.

She also accused Dr Shorvon of causing rifts in NNI "using the very effective British colonial method of 'divide and rule'."

The health ministry's Singapore Medical Council held a 10-day hearing on Dr Shorvon in February 2004 and noted he refused to take part in the proceedings on the advice of MPS, which also did not submit its review of the case.

Dr Shorvon said he did not appear since he was not on the Singapore Medical Register and that the SMC had no jurisdiction to hear the case as a result.

The council said that all of the 30 charges of professional
misconduct against Dr Shorvon had been "proven beyond a reasonable
doubt" during the disciplinary hearings. Dr Shorvon has asked the
General Medical Council in the UK to review the allegations.

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