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    May 27, 2015

    Had liposuction? MOH wants to interview you

    PEOPLE who want to have liposuction to improve their looks must agree to be interviewed by the Ministry of Health (MOH) on the outcome of the procedure.

    This requirement has both doctors and patients up in arms.

    Meanwhile, MOH told The Straits Times that it has interviewed more than 500 patients who have had aesthetic treatments and "so far, MOH has not needed to proceed beyond the initial interview".

    One of the patients contacted, a woman in her early 40s who asked not to be named, said that she was "taken aback" by the call from the ministry.

    The caller had told her the details of her treatment before asking if she was happy with the outcome.

    The clinic where she underwent treatment to uplift a saggy posterior had called to ask if it was all right for MOH to contact her, and she had said no. This was confirmed by her doctor.

    She said she was so shocked by the call that she merely said that she was very happy with the treatment. It was only after she had put the phone down that she got angry.

    She said: "I thought that information was confidential. Why does MOH have to know what I had done?"

    However, an MOH spokesman said there is no compromise of patient confidentiality in ministry officials knowing the details of treatments. Under the Private Hospitals and Medical Clinics Act, MOH can access medical records without patient consent, so long as it is for medical audit purposes.

    A letter dated May 11 from the ministry to doctors providing aesthetic treatments said its audit had found "inadequate clinical documentation" and "absence or incomplete consent forms and feedback forms".

    It told doctors to ensure that they get "a statement in the consent form that any consent given by the patient for the procedure shall include the patient's agreement to be contacted and interviewed by MOH authorised officers in order to assess the outcome of the procedure".

    The MOH spokesman said that this is not a new requirement, but aesthetic doctors contacted said this is the first they have heard of it. The letter specified liposuction, or the removal of fat.

    Said David Loh, vice-president of the Society of Aesthetic Medicine: "Informed consent should be separate from consent to audit. And patients should have the right to refuse."

    Harold Ma, a general practitioner providing aesthetic treatments said he had called the ministry to ask what happens should a patient refuse to be audited by the ministry and was told that if he proceeded with treatment, it would be "at my own risk".

    MOH has been clamping down on aesthetic treatments recently.

    From March, all liposuction has to be done in a hospital or in an approved day surgery centre, removing two in three clinics that had been offering the service.

    Liposuction has claimed two lives here, both patients in their 40s who were otherwise healthy.

    Also in March, the ministry announced that it will no longer approve of applications from clinics to provide questionable treatments like whitening and some fat-busting jabs.

    Those already offering these treatments have six months to publish their outcomes, failing which they have to stop.