Dr Lim Lian Arn, an orthopaedic surgeon, was fined in 2018 for failing to inform a patient of the possible side effects of a treatment. In July 2019, however, the High Court reversed the conviction and overturned the fine. He shares about how God brought him through the ordeal.
One day about four years ago, I received a letter from the Singapore Medical Council informing me that I was to face a disciplinary tribunal. A patient had complained that I had not told her of the possible side effects of a steroid injection. When I read the letter, I felt a physical heaviness. I wandered numbly to the TV and switched it on, hoping to get my mind off the issue.
On the screen, I saw a man in white robes telling a group of fishermen that they would be fishers of men one day. It was a scene from an old movie, Quo Vadis (which means “Where are you going?” in Latin), about the persecution of Christians in the first century. You might call it a coincidence, but I was profoundly affected. The words of the actor playing Jesus reminded me of my foundation, security, and purpose in Christ—a foundation that would keep me joyful and thankful through the next four years. I would also be encouraged by 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18: “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
During the case, I was advised to plead guilty to the charges of professional misconduct. When the judgment was first announced—I was given the maximum fine of $100,000—I braced myself for the media storm. Clinging to 1 Thessalonians 5:16–18, however, I found myself able to stay calm. On the day of the announcement, I was still running my clinic. My first patient was complaining of heel pain, so I told him to take his sandals off so I could examine his foot. When I bent down, I glanced at his sandal: its brand, printed in bold white letters on the inner sole, said: “Quo Vadis”.
I had never seen this brand before. I stared at the sandal for a long moment, then continued the rest of the day with a heart filled with joy.
The local medical community protested against the judgment, and about 4,000 doctors signed a petition. An appeal was made against the judgment, and in July, the High Court reversed the conviction. The legal technicalities of the case, however, are much less important than what I learnt about how God loves and saves us:
First, God saves us from ourselves. The case brought me face to face with my idols—my good standing and reputation. I risked losing money, being suspended, and not being able to work. I realised these were the idols that God was helping me to confront and rid myself of. It was a process of sanctification that He led me through as I trod through the dark valley. The process was painful, but what I gained was priceless.
Second, God saves us from a state of ignorance, sin, and death, and gives us assurance that He is sovereign over every detail of our lives. He saves us from a life without Him. When my judgment was finally set aside, a Chinese newspaper ran the headline, “No guilt for doctor”. It was poignant because it was the ultimate, glorious truth: no matter how grievous our sins and crimes are, if we acknowledge them before Christ, He will free us of all guilt.
Third, He sometimes saves us from our situations. This doesn’t always happen: we may still lose that job or relationship, be penalised for that error, or not be cured of that illness. Even then, it will still be a glorious and enriching enough experience to encounter God. But sometimes, in His abundant grace, God does resolve our situations. When He does that, we have to remember it is ultimately not for our sake, but for His glory alone.
At the beginning of my four-year trial, I wanted to settle the case quickly and get on with life. But God asked me: Quo Vadis? Where are you going?
My prayer is that in whatever situations we find ourselves, we will discover what God wants to reveal about ourselves, about Him, and about how He saves, so that we will walk in deep joy, prayerfulness, and thanksgiving.
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