Of all the service providers that we use in our daily lives, I would venture to say that among those who can charge exorbitantly without too much risk of raising the hackles of their customers are our doctors.
The reason for this is simple: Most of us do not really know what the market fee is for a certain type of procedure or consultation. And we do not usually question such professionals over what they charge as it may come across as an affront to them.
Another reason could be that we trust our doctors and like to believe that they are generally honourable people who have sworn by the Hippocratic Oath to save lives and follow the standards set by the medical profession.
However, over the years as medical and other costs escalate with new technologies and soaring rentals, many doctors have begun to put up their fees in order to make sure that they do not inadvertently go into the red .
There is absolutely nothing wrong with doing that as I believe that they, like all people, must make a living and should not be penalised for doing the right thing.
However, what disturbs me is when some doctors start to abuse their profession and, as a result, give their peers a bad name as well. Many of them have been accused of ordering unnecessary tests and procedures. Or to include fees in their bills that are questionable.
I know of one case where a cardiologist recommended an angiogram when there was no need for one. Fortunately, the recommendation was not taken up because my friend was smart enough to seek a second opinion.
He was convinced that this doctor was ordering unnecessary procedures because his office colleague was told the same thing when he, too, went for a heart check. It turned out that the procedure was also not necessary.
Talking about doctors overcharging, the news that shook Singapore this week -- just as hard as the Kiwi quake -- was the story of surgeon Susan Lim who is fighting the Singapore Medical Council in court to stop it from appointing a second disciplinary committee to hear a government accusation that she had overcharged a patient from the royal family in Brunei.
The fees given in the story were just mind-boggling.
The question on top of people's mind is: Why did this brilliant surgeon have to do such a thing?
What I am particularly happy about this whole affair is that everything is being made known to the public.
What Dr Lim needs to do now is to convince the SMC that she is indeed the honest person that she says she is in a 2010 video interview that I heard moments ago. Of course, I am assuming the court will allow the SMC's committee to go ahead with the second hearing against her.
Let's stay tuned.