Monday, February 28, 2011

The doctor is in ... her pocket

A local surgeon is being investigated by the Singapore Medical Council for the outrageous bills she submitted to a member of the royal family of a nearby country. She claims she did nothing improper as she had an agreement with her fabulously wealthy patient.

I suspect most people with a potentially life-threatening illness would agree to anything their doctor suggested, with her white coat and esoteric knowledge, especially given the mortal fear the patient must have been experiencing.
Just because your patient is rich, it is not OK to soak her. Not only did this doctor submit hefty bills for her own services, she inflated the bills she submitted on behalf of other doctors involved in the case. A $400 bill became $211,000, a $3,000 bill became $285,000.

I was thinking this surgeon deserved to occupy the cell next to Bernie Madoff. But now, five of the eight doctors who had their bills surgically enhanced have filed affidavits swearing that there was nothing wrong with this practice.

None of these doctors have been accused of wrongdoing, and it seems likely that they were unaware of the inflated billing. I wonder why they don’t see a problem? I can speculate on a number of reasons, but let’s assume they genuinely believe it is perfectly acceptable to take a $9,000 medical bill and increase it to $400,000. Doesn’t that worry you?

This show of support for their colleague makes me worry that we may be on the verge of an epidemic of doctoritis grabyourcashis.

Singaporeans, protect yourselves! Wash your hands and hold tightly to your wallets! Drink plenty of alkaline water – some doctors sell it on the side, so you can believe it works! And don’t brag about your cousin the sultan during your consultation, just mention your uncle Ah Seng the durian seller.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Congratulations to Andy Ho

Straits Times columnist Andy Ho, who writes on science and medicine, has been short listed by the Singapore Organization for Research on Relevant Issues (SORRI) for its “Person of the Year” Award. In recent weeks Dr Ho has written two impressive columns. The first recounted medical studies showing that acupuncture is no more effective than a placebo, and the second debunked astrology. With all the charlatans running amok on this island, it is a pleasure to see someone take a stand for science and reason. Well done, Dr Ho.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Is Singapore cool?

CNN has somehow determined that Singapore is the second coolest country in the world, after Brazil. Brazil is known for fabulous beaches, scantily clad bathers and carnival dancers, a formidable soccer tradition, bossa nova, and a laid back vibe. The two countries seem poles apart. So how were the rankings determined? Who knows? It depends on how you define “cool.”

The Straits Times did an informal survey of 200 Singaporeans. Nearly half did not think Singapore was cool. When asked to name the coolest icon in Singapore, the most common answer was “can’t think of one.” In second place was Lee Kuan Yew. I’ll bet if you told MM Lee he was cool he’d think you were siao. The venerable statesman was followed by the new Marina Bay Sands hotel/casino/integrated resort.

What makes Singapore cool? The top answer was its transport system, with its shiny trains free of graffiti. In some places, graffiti is considered cool and shiny is bland. Predictably, food and shopping made the list, as did safety. Cool is edgy and clearly in the danger zone, not safe. I’m not sure many respondents understand what “cool” is; they seem to associate it with something vaguely good or positive.

I see Singapore as the honors student who always wears a cardigan (you might catch cold!) and plays the clarinet in the marching band. Singapore is not the jock, cheerleader, leather-clad biker, or lead guitarist in a garage band. Being a goody two shoes has certain advantages, but “cool” is not one of them.