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 1. Registered Medical Practitioners and Practice of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)

The SMA Ethics Committee wrote to the Singapore Medical Council (SMC) to inquire whether it is permissible for a registered medical practitioner to also practise TCM and dispense Chinese herbal medicinal products to patients. The following reply was received from A/Prof Chee Yam Cheng, Secretary, Singapore Medical Council on 5th January 1998.

“The existing rule does not prohibit a registered medical practitioner from practising TCM. However, the patient must be very clear when he consults a doctor/practitioner that his expertise is sought in one field or the other.  For western medicine, the laws are clear and MAAU licenses the practice and there are checks on the drugs prescribed.  

However, for TCM, it is only recently that some form of recognition has been given to these practitioners such that the public is able to check out the bona-fide status of them by referring to three lists of TCM practitioners published by the Singapore TCM Organisation Co-ordinating Committee.

The TCM Department of the MOH has advised that only those properly trained in TCM should be allowed to practise TCM.

Therefore, if a person is qualified as a western trained doctor, as well as a TCM practitioner, he can practise both. But a patient consulting him must know prior to the consultation that he will receive one form or the other of medicine. To make this clear, it is advisable that the 2 different practices be located separately.”

2. Update of the SMA Ethics Committee Advisory on the advertising guidelines under the Private Hospitals and Medical Clinics (PHMC) regulations.

Some members have written to the Ethics Committee to seek advice as to what is ethically acceptable under the above guidelines as regards the question of listing ‘special interests’ concerning area(s) of practice in advertisements of medical clinics in the “Yellow Pages”. The Ethics committee considers the following two paragraphs of the regulations as being relevant to this issue.

Paragraph 1.21 – “Advertisements shall not contain any laudatory statements (including statements of prominence or uniqueness) or superlatives to describe the services or premises of the healthcare establishment.”
Paragraph 3.1(c) “Advertisements of medical clinics may only contain the services provided, including area(s) of practice.”

The Committee advised these members against listing treatment modalities and special interests in specific conditions. This is because “area(s) of practice” as we understand from the original intent of the Guideline would mean “areas of specialty” and not treatment or special interests in specific conditions.  

Statements of treatment modalities and special interest may imply that there is some degree of “prominence or uniqueness” of the practice and be construed as being laudatory. In any case, only “areas of practice” as taken to be “areas of specialty” such as General Surgery or Orthopaedics could be verified from statutory sources such as the SMC Specialist Register when it is published. 

The Committee would also like to remind members that existing regulations only permit medical clinics to advertise. Doctors are still not allowed to advertise under the existing codes of ethics. Therefore, in such clinic advertisements, information of doctors not already permitted under the PHMC Act, could still be viewed from the perspective of the codes of ethics. 

Members are advised to ensure that such advertisement should be in line with the PHMC regulations and information as it pertains to doctors the codes of ethics of the Singapore Medical Council and the Singapore Medical Association. To assist members, copies of the latest advisory of the SMA Ethics Committee regarding the PHMC Act and the SMA Code of Ethics are available free of charge to SMA members on request. The SMC Code of Ethics is available from the SMC at $10 per copy.