MEDICAL, LEGAL PROFESSIONS NEED TO CLEAR THE AIR

I READ with dismay the article (“Susan Lim case: Court slashes SMC’s cost claims”; Wednesday).

The irony of the situation makes for hearty tabloid fodder but we should not disregard the serious implications for both the medical and legal professions.

Two actions seem warranted once the legal dust has settled following any further appeals.

First, both professions need to clear the air and explain to the public how fees are set and arbitrated.

Reduction of the lawyers’ fees from $900,000 to $180,000 is staggering; what happens to citizens of lesser means who wish to appeal and challenge the fees charged?

Professions enjoy the privilege of self-regulation, including setting their own fees, because society trusts professionals to place public interests above their own.

Both professions have seen their collective reputations sullied, and the relevant bodies need to act quickly and decisively to restore confidence and trust in the medical and legal professions.

Second, the Singapore Medical Council (SMC) should have the legal fees it has paid out over the years independently reviewed, to ensure there have not been other episodes of overcharging that have gone undetected.

The SMC is a statutory government agency funded by taxpayers’ dollars (and doctors’ registration fees) and must demonstrate exemplary financial prudence.

Medicine and law are traditional bastions of society and the professions have built up hard-earned reputations for integrity, trust and service to the community over the generations. Let’s not throw these away.

Jeremy Lim Fung Yen (Dr)

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