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Decision No: 98/28C
Practitioner: Dr Santokh Singh
Charge Characteristics: Misled a person entitled to know about a patientís condition
Additional Orders: None
Decision: 9828cfindingslaw
Penalty Decision: 9828cfindingssuplaw

 

Charge:  

A CAC charged that Dr Singh:

  1. Failed to supply adequate information to NZI Life (now Prudential Insurance Company) when he knew or should have known that his patient was suffering from impaired renal function.
  2. Failed to supply adequate medical information to Countrywide Life when he knew or should have known that his patient was suffering from impaired renal function.

being disgraceful conduct in a professional respect or professional misconduct or conduct unbecoming a medical practitioner which reflects adversely on Dr Singh's fitness to practice medicine.

 

Background:

Dr Singh received lab test reports in April 1994 indicating his patient had renal failure. He arranged for the patient to be admitted to hospital on 5 April 1994. His referral referred to "known renal failure". On 1 June 1994 the patient took out a life insurance policy with NZI Life, but did not advise them of his illness. On 30 July 1996 the patient applied to Countrywide Life for further death cover, and again he did not disclose his illness. The patient died on 21 September 1996. Following the patient's death Dr Singh received requests from NZI Life and Countrywide Life for details of the patient's medical history. Dr Singh replied to the letters and did not mention his patient was suffering from impaired renal function.

 

Finding: 

The Tribunal found Dr Singh guilty of professional misconduct.

The Tribunal found that both particulars of the charge were proven. The Tribunal found that Dr Singh was sparing in the extreme in the information that he provided to the life insurance companies. The Tribunal considered that the limited response made by Dr Singh to the two insurance companies were intended to mislead. By failing to communicate the necessary information Dr Singh damaged the traditional trust which must exist between insurance companies and members of the medical profession. The Tribunal was not persuaded that the failure to provide the information was due to administrative overload and oversight.

The Tribunal, applied the test for professional misconduct established in Ongley v Medical Council of New Zealand [1984] 4 NZAR 369. It found the activities of Dr Singh in reporting to the two insurance companies were clearly professional in nature, and the wilful omission of relevant information concerning his patient on the facts construed professional misconduct. The Tribunal did not consider a finding of disgraceful conduct was warranted, it being reserved for the most serious offences, often conduct which is repetitive in nature, occurring over a period of time.

The CAC applied to adduce similar fact evidence.  This application was denied by the Tribunal.

 

Penalty:

Dr Singh was censured, fined $10,000 (max $20,000) and ordered to pay 50% of the costs of the hearing and inquiry.

In addition he was required to enter into the Mentoring Programme conducted by the Medical Council for a period of at least 18 months. The Tribunal requested a report at six monthly intervals to ensure the Tribunal was aware of progress and that that programme was being undertaken.