We could not help but comment on the latest happenings with regards to prominent aesthetic doctor, Dr Low Chai Ling since our website is about beauty and aesthetics, and we pride ourselves on ‘being in the know’.

If you think that doctors’ lives are boring, think again. The saga involving aesthetic practitioner Dr Low Chai Ling is juicier than many local tabloids. While our requests for interviews were turned down, we cannot help but conduct our own little sleuthing into the matter and offer our two cents worth in this saga we call “Beauty and the Council Beast”.

Main fact:

Dr Low was fined $10,000 by the Singapore Medical Council for offering some aesthetic procedures on her clinic website in 2007. (Her conviction was subsequently overturned)

Strange fact #1:

There were no guidelines regulating aesthetic medicine in 2007 when Dr Low was charged. The first set of guidelines only came out a year later in 2008. Many people asked: how could she be charged in retrospect?

Strange fact #2:

Many other doctors were offering the same aesthetic treatments at that time. None of them were charged by MOH or SMC (Singapore Medical Council). Among those listed to have offered mesotherapy included prominent plastic surgeons such as Dr Woffles Wu, Dr Leslie Kwek, dermatologists Dr Joyce Lim, Dr Patricia Yuen. This led many people to question why she was singled out amongst cores of doctors who were essentially doing the same treatments as her.

Strange fact #3:

Even by today’s standards and guidelines, Dr Low should not have been found guilty. The current guidelines allow for such aesthetic procedures (eg mesotherapy) to be carried out but under careful monitoring.

Strange fact #4:

These aesthetic procedures are still being performed by doctors in Singapore to date and are still very popular worldwide, in countries ranging from Korea to USA.

Outcome of Appeal:

The Court of Appeal, Singapore’s highest court, overturned Dr Low’s conviction last Monday and issued a scathing judgment criticizing the Singapore Medical Council’s handling of the case.

Main Players:

Professor Ong Yong Yau headed the Disciplinary Committee that found Dr Low guilty. The Senior Counsel who headed the prosecuting team was Tan Chee Meng from Wong Partnership. The sole expert witness whose testimony the prosecution relied on to convict Dr Low was a dermatologist called Professor Goh Chee Leok.

The saga #1:

It should be quite obvious what the saga was all about, even to the layman not well versed in the law. In the first place, why was Dr Low even singled out to be charged when so many doctors are doing the same treatments in 2007 and to date? It appears either there are two sets of ethical guidelines and Dr Low was held to a higher standard of the code than other doctors, or she was just a victim of selective prosecution. This led the Court of Appeal to criticize the SMC over the handling of the case and prompted calls for the Ministry of Health and SMC to relook their handling of such cases. This blatant subversion of justice was quite shocking to many people who never thought it possible in law-abiding Singapore whose government body prides itself on its transparency and its low corruption rates.

The saga #2:

There were allegations that the initial complaint arose out of professional jealousy. Chinese Papers made the suggestion that there were other doctors who were jealous of this successful doctor’s popularity and prominence which instigated this frivolous case against her.

The saga #3:

The expert witness against Dr Low was Professor Goh Chee Leok; he was the ex-head of National Skin Centre and is also part of a company called ADEG (Aesthetic Dermatology Eduction Group, www.adeg.com.sg) which offer aesthetic courses to doctors for profit. His colleagues in this company include dermatologists such as Dr Joyce Lim who similarly offered such aesthetic treatments (mesotherapy) like Dr Low in 2007. Strangely, neither Dr Lim nor any dermatologists were similarly charged to our knowledge.

The saga #4:

Prof Goh Chee Leok was associated with a company called AMPL. In 2004-2006, AMPL advertised workshops offering laser and mesotherapy courses for doctors in local publications and newspapers—- Prof Goh Chee Leok’s name featured in these advertisements as an advisor. None of the people involved in these mesotherapy courses were charged, yet Prof Goh Chee Leok was the expert witness convicting Dr Low over the practice of mesotherapy. Pot calling kettle…?

Advertisement of Mesotherapy found in The Sunday Times March, 2005 (PDF) – Click here

There is certainly more than meets the eye to this interesting case, but the facts of the matter is that in today’s social media world, no website is completely obliterated even when it is shut down. All newspaper adverts are archived and can be retrieved, and so there is no escaping the facts of the matter. While people may have a short memory, the internet world has a distinctly long memory.

I am sure the saga all ends here as the medical bodies will not want to embarrass themselves any further, now that a group of elite regulators are caught out trying to pull a fast one on an unsuspecting doctor. With the popular aesthetic doctor being vindicated in her fight against SMC, I am sure many will agree that justice has finally been meted out. But the question is will the wrongdoers be let off with only a tap on the wrist? If so, what is to prevent this sort of scenario from happening again?

The sad part is that this is only one of possibly many cases that has been in the spotlight, primarily because not all doctors will fight for the principle of the matter, and go all the way to the Court of Appeal. Many doctors may have abandoned their fight long before. The truth in today’s legal system is that it takes money to fight a case in the Court of Appeal with costs overshadowing the actual fine of $10,000 imposed by the medical council. Even then, we are glad that one doctor has the courage to take this to the end, and fight for justice and for the principle of the matter. Sometimes, money isn’t everything, and if it means it exposes a wrongdoing and an inherent shortcoming in our professional bodies, possibly priceless.

We have taken some information from a fellow blogger http://supersmallpotatoes.wordpress.com/tag/aesthetics-doctor/  and for that we give credit with thanks.


* Selected as Article of the Month Sep 2012*


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13 thoughts on “Beauty & the Council Beast”

  1. There must be action taken against the SMC, and there must be safeguards to prevent this from happening in the future. Either this was done without the head honchos knowing what their little people were doing, or done with their ‘blessing’. Either way, there is room for a major clean out in their ranks.

  2. the medical council is wasting tax payers’ money over these silly issues, prob over personal vendettas, when there are more troubling and serious issues in the world out there, like an aging population and lack of hospital beds.

  3. while the council should uphold ethics and discipline errant docs, shouldn’t they also have the responsibility to potent and serve their profession? instead of bringing their profession into disrepute with such frivolous and embarrassing actions?

  4. This incident clearly show that the new generation of Singaporean cannot be “bullied” by the Regulators. In the past, we always quietly swallowed what is melted to us. We have no means to reason with them or engaged in a legal case. Thus the Regulators concluded that they are always right and that their policies are well tested. Well tested because no one dare to take them on.

    I hope this attitude will be the past.

  5. This is ridiculous. I don’t understand why a doctor is charged for mesotherapy. Plastic surgeons in Brazil and Mexico do mesotherapy all the time, and i can tell you it really works for me, and is a cost-effective option for localized fat loss. There are studies on mesotherapy, i cannot believe they are all ignored and are branded unscientific. I dare say perhaps this aesthetic doctor is just way ahead of her peers.

  6. The attitude of the regulators in this case is indicative of what is wrong with the “older generation” of regulators and law-enforcers. Instead of taking a consultative approach, they take matters into their own hands and make a mockery out of our justice, while paying lip service to the system of democracy. This really shows that the old guards in these bodies need to wake up their ideas and stop their high handed approach in dealing with the people.

  7. woohoo! I love the mesotherapy advert! ahahaha. so the expert witness is not so white after all, if he is also involved in list b procedures as well.

  8. It seems that it’s no secret that the expert witness prosecuting Dr Low’s case was himself performing or endorsing such treatments. 1) doesn’t this show that he is not a credible witness 2) aren’t there any whistle-blowers who can let the relevant authorities know? It appears that the current system doesn’t allow for whistle-blowing. Rather it protects these old guards who may themselves be involved in dubious acitivities.

  9. Prof Goh Chee Leok was ex-head of National Skin Centre as well as a well-known regulator in the MOH. he drafted the aesthetic guidelines governing aesthetic doctors. the question is: what was he doing being involved in a private profit making company offering mesotherapy courses to doctors? I think his credibility as an expert witness and as a regulator should be examined.

  10. I am sure this is only the tip of the iceberg. Maybe thats the general direction of the medical bodies so far? And maybe this sort of bullying behavior is rampant within the ranks?

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