32 year-old Dr Garuna Murthee Kavitha administered a chemotherapy drug the wrong way, putting her patient at a serious risk of “severe neurological damage” after she injected the drug into the membrane of the spinal cord, instead of feeding it intravenously to the patient. For her lapses, she was fined $2,000 and censured by the Singapore Medical Council (SMC).
Dr Kavitha was practicing as a Medical Officer with the Singapore General Hospital at the time of her lapse, and is still currently with the hospital. The SMC hearing was convened on 21st April this year, but was published today on the SMC website.
According to the hearing documents, Dr Kavitha made her error because the ward had sent her the wrong medicine, which Dr Kavitha did not check. She pleaded guilty to a single charge under Section 53(1)(d) of the Medical Registration Act.
In her defense, lawyers argued that Dr Kavitha did not intend for the error to happen and stressed that she had taken responsibility and informed the hospital of her error immediately. They argued that Dr Kavitha was a young doctor at that time who had learnt from this incident. In contrast, more senior doctors in previous SMC hearing cases had tried to cover up their mistakes and not disclose their mistakes to patients, with some even tampering with medical records.
Dr Kavitha’s superiors, colleagues and feedback from the family of another patient were also submitted at the hearing. The SMC also took into account Dr Kavitha’s Best Medical Officer award accorded at the SingHealth Best Junior Doctors and Medicine Scholarship Awards in 2013.
Her defense lawyers also attempted to persuade the hearing to not publicize a record of the proceedings during the hearing so as to protect Dr Kavitha’s reputation. Their suggestion was rejected by the SMC board as there has been no such precedent where a SMC hearing report was not disclosed to the public.