Singaporeans, particularly those involved with Medical Tourism, should take heart from recent news reports that Gleneagles Hospital must pay a patient damages amounting to SGD 250,000 (approximately USD 201,000) by the law courts as compensation for a botched operation. The patient, a Hong Kong resident, claimed aggravated damages for "grave mental anguish, distress and depression."
Certainly, no one wishes to see Singapore become a trigger happy legal environment – where individuals sue each other over the slightest of grievances. However, maintaining professionalism requires accountability. In turn, accountability implies a fair and transparent legal framework. In this regard, the court's decision must be applauded by doctors, patients and hospitals alike.
Awarding damages to a patient for a poorly executed medical procedure sends the right message to everyone. Patients – already nervous about complicated medical surgery – gain comfort from knowing a doctor's scalpel is answerable to local law courts. Hospitals understand the seriousness of maintaining the sanctity of medical records. Doctor's will be more careful undertaking surgeries for fear of paying damages in case something goes wrong. The positive ripples are numerous.
Presently, patients looking at international jurisdictions for medical services may find Singapore less expensive than most European countries. Nonetheless, in today's globalized world, medical tourists have many alternatives available, including several countries cheaper than Singapore (e.g. Thailand).
Still, Singapore's medical industry can take heart from the resounding endorsement by none other than Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe's dear ruler! The Zimbabwean President seems to visit Singapore for medical attention every few months.