Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Avoidable Error

The Sunday Times front page splash was about a 6 year old who won an Encouragement Award in the defence science section of this year's Tan Kah Kee Young Inventors' Award. Her "cooling umbrella" was meant for soldiers to use in hot weather conditions, so "they can keep up a level of high performance". So, besides carrying the backpack, it looks like the maid will have to tote an umbrella into battle as well.

Maybe the adults didn't want to dampen her spirits by pointing out that the combination of the latent heat of vaporisation of water and the relative humidity in our Singapore clime would defeat her system of evaporative cooling through perforated straws which lined her umbrella. They teach Science in kindergarten, don't they? Someone once tried to market a water spray that claimed to cool the insides of a car left in the summer sun in Perth, where windows have actually popped out due to the intense pressure built up by the heat. It quickly lowers the temperature by about 10 degrees, in a place where it can be 44 degrees in the shade, and average humidity at 40 percent. It didn't sell too well.

Jointly organised by the Tan Kah Kee Foundation, Agency for Science, Technology and Research, and the Defence Science and Technology Agency, with the support of Science Centre Singapore, the award event couldn't be a joke, right? The keynote address was delivered by Su Guaning, president of NTU, another serious sounding organisation. But the last paragraph of the write-up has this sneak preview of what's to come. "I have already thought of a lot of inventions," the acclaimed genius volunteered, "Like a circle which, when you look through it, will let you know whether someone is a good or bad person." Just the thing for those tea parties to vet potential members of parliament.

But you stop laughing when you read that a 23 year old man had two good teeth extracted by mistake in May 2007. Dr Debbie Hong, 30, of the Singapore Dental Centre, must have been on auto-pilot, following blindly the instruction of a wrong referral slip inserted in the wrong patient file. She probably didn't even notice it was a human being seated in the dentist chair, and there was nothing wrong with his upper left first premolar and lower left second premolar. The May 2011 statement from the SDC read, "The disciplinary committee was of the opinion that the wrong extraction of the patient's two teeth was a serious matter which could have been avoided." Why are adults so dumb?


  1. Tattler,
    Perhaps Dr Debbie Hong was not paid well enough, sort of affected her dignity if she were to spend more time than necessary peering inside her patient's mouth.

    Or could it be Debbie's eyeballs with ($)~($) signs that contributed to the error ?
    Perhaps Dr LimWeeKiak can enlighten the readers.

  2. Dr Debbie Hong was obviously trained to be able to discern between a rotting tooth and a good tooth, but that she still plucked out two good teeth despite her inherent training and skills from professional dentistry school in university, is disturbing. Why would she even obey the instructions laid out to her even if these are WRONG? No personal attacks intended against her, but her mistake simply shows that this "yes-" mentality of doing something regardless of the negative effects pervades quite strongly in our society.

  3. Many Singaporeans are educated/indoctrinated to be 'yesfolks' and take instructions and orders blindly. One reason why soldier does not make good political leader is the state of his/her regimental mentality.
    Can one trusts a doctor, dentist or any other professionals who are professionally certified, qualified BUT have no COMMONSENSE?

  4. It was reported that the patient went to straighten his teeth, which may or may not involve extraction of tooth. Nevertheless the doctor should have checked with the patient before the extraction. Both the dental centre and the doctor are at fault. I find the $3000 fine a mere slap on the wrist. The patient should sue the dental centre for negligence and could have got at least 10 times the amount of fine as compensation.

    I am also quite appalled that the young kid won any award for such a stupid invention. They are either scrapping the bottom of the barrel or does it count that his dad is a civil servant?

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  8. That's a terrible mistake made by a professional. I hope she learnt her lesson. But poor patient have to lose good teeth because of a person's oversight.

  9. this doctor is working in specialist dental group but very suspicious that her profile cannot be found on the website. the receptionist referred my friend's child to see this doctor. thank god my friend realised the mistake made by this doctor. even if this mistake was long time ago, given a choice, i would not want my loved ones to see her.