A doctor who illegally sold nearly 3,000 litres of codeine-laced cough syrup to three men, who then peddled the drug on the streets, has been stripped of his licence to practise medicine.
Ho Thong Chew, who made almost S$267,000 from his illicit venture, faced the Singapore Medical Council’s (SMC) disciplinary hearings after he had been sentenced in 2012 to seven-and-a-half months’ jail and a S$60,000 fine in the then Subordinate Courts.
In its grounds of decision released yesterday, the disciplinary tribunal said Ho’s court conviction implied a defect in character which makes him unfit for the medical profession.
Although Ho’s lawyer argued that he should be censured or suspended for a short period, the tribunal listed several aggravating factors in the case that it felt warranted a harsher punishment.
The doctor, who ran his own clinic in Ang Mo Kio for seven years before it was closed down by the Ministry of Health, had supplied the cough syrup to the three men for five months despite knowing that it would be sold to the public indiscriminately, the tribunal said. The men gave him a cut of the proceeds from peddling the cough syrup in Geylang, amounting to a vast profit of S$266,825 for him, it added.
He sold a total of 846 canisters of cough syrup, each of which contained 3.8 litres of the mixture.
Ho also showed blatant disregard for the law by continuing to supply the cough syrup illegally after the Health Sciences Authority had carried out a raid at his clinic, the tribunal said.
In mitigation, Ho said he had committed the offences because he had wanted to earn more money for his clinic and to support his children’s medical care and future.
While it noted that the ailments suffered by Ho’s daughter will result in lifelong disability and dependence, the tribunal said: “Needing money cannot be an excuse for the criminal acts.”
It added: “The overriding interests in this case must be the protection of the public interests and to uphold the integrity of the medical profession.”
The tribunal ordered that Ho’s name by removed from the Register of Medical Practitioners and for him to bear the costs and expenses of the disciplinary proceedings, including the SMC’s legal fees.
The three men who had bought the cough syrup from Ho to resell it to codeine abusers were sentenced to between 10 and 16 weeks’ jail in 2012.