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Johns Hopkins Clinical Services Pte Ltd

An article was published in The Straits Times on Thursday, 5 August 1999, titled "50 doctors complain about Johns Hopkins". In that article, 50 doctors wrote in to the Singapore Medical Council to claim that Johns Hopkins has violated rules on advertising when it started sending unsolicited promotional brochures to the general public.

The SMA President, on behalf of the SMA Council wrote to Johns Hopkins to seek clarification on this issue. Johns Hopkins has since replied and both letters are published below.


6 August 1999
Mr Steven J Thompson
Chief Executive Officer
Johns Hopkins Singapore Clinical Services Pte Ltd
5 Lower Kent Ridge Road
Kent Ridge Wing, Level 8
National University Hospital
Singapore 119074

Dear Mr Thompson


The Ethics Committee of the Singapore Medical Association (SMA) has received several requests to look into the publicity materials issued by Johns Hopkins Singapore Clinical Services Pte Ltd (JHSCS) from the standpoint of professionalism. We are informed that not only medical practitioners are in receipt of the brochure but patients too.

The Committee has studied the brochure on Clinical Services (Annex A) and we would like to draw your attention to the following in the brochure:

  • "Johns Hopkins Singapore Clinical Services gives Southeast Asian residents an opportunity to receive the best patient care available",

  •  "Johns Hopkins Singapore patients can benefit from an unmatched wealth of advanced treatment"

  • About Dr Martin Abeloff: "… He developed the solid tumour clinical research programmes in the John Hopkins Cancer Centre in the early 1970s and has been a leader in developing broad-based research programmes in solid tumours, haematologic (blood) cancers, and cancer prevention and control."

  • About Dr Alex Y Chang: "… As a John Hopkins senior faculty member, Dr Chang comes to Johns Hopkins Singapore with more than 20 years experience in cancer research. He is internationally known for his expertise in the innovative treatment of breast and lung cancer."

May we draw your attention to the Code of Ethics issued by Singapore Medical Council (1995 edition) to which all medical practitioners abide. The relevant paragraphs, Paragraph 59 on information about specialist services and Paragraph 60 on Information about organisations offering medical services are given below:

59. Specialists may keep their fellow practitioners informed of the services they offer and their practice arrangements. Materials circulated in this way should not disparage, expressly or by implication, the services provided by other practitioners, or claim superiority for the specialist’s personal qualities, qualifications, experiences or skills. … Information about individual specialists should not otherwise be made directly to the public.

60. Medical services are offered to the public not only by individual practitioners but by a wide variety of organisations such as hospitals and medical clinics as defined under the Private Hospitals and Medical Clinics Act. Some of them do advertise their services to the public and the principles set out in this Code concerning advertising of general practitioner services, apply also to such advertising. In addition, the advertisements should not include the names of practitioners … There should not be any claim of superiority for the professional services offered by or for any practitioners connected with the organisation.

We view the statements in your brochure to be professionally offensive and culturally insensitive. We look forward to your organisation adopting a correct professional decorum whilst practising amongst fellow health care providers in Singapore.

Thank you.


Yours sincerely
A/Prof Goh Lee Gan
President, 40th SMA Council


Cc: President, Singapore Medical Council
Director of Medical Services, Ministry of Health
CEO, Johns Hopkins Medicine
Chairman, EDB
CEO, National University Hospital
Dean, Faculty of Medicine, NUS