Row over medical project's ethics

Dateline: Lion City 

MEDICAL authorities are battling to head off a damaging ethical row with a British neurologist, which threatens to cast a shadow over efforts to transform the island into a centre for scientific innovation. 

The case concerns a joint research project conducted by Professor Simon Shorvon, the former head of Singapore's National Neuroscience Institute (NNI), and University College, London, which involved testing on patients with Parkinson's disease. 

The project ended under a cloud of controversy in 2002 over claims the tests were conducted without the proper consent of the patients involved and over whether the relevant hospital ethics committees had been kept fully informed. 

“We need to take this extremely carefully. Informed consent and ethical review committees are something not to be fooled around with,” said Alex Matter, director of the Novartis Institute for Tropical Diseases in Singapore. 

The claims of misconduct in the original study came to light when Lee Wei Ling, daughter of modern Singapore's founder Lee Kuan Yew, resigned from the project.  

Wei Ling currently heads the NNI. 

Prof Shorvon left Singapore and he was later fined by the Singapore Medical Council. 

The UK-based Medical Protection Society, in a statement issued on Prof Shorvon's behalf when legal proceedings ended in the Singapore High Court, rejected all the charges of professional misconduct related to the 2002 research project. 

The Singapore Health Ministry issued a strong rebuttal yesterday.  

Singapore has invested millions of dollars on building a centre for biomedical scientific research, called the Biopolis, which features animal testing laboratories and offices. – Reuters  

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