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Exploring LASIK Options in Singapore (with No Success)

I’ll skip the blog intro and make it up later.

Singapore conjures up images of the “best in the world” – one of the best transportation systems that rival that of Paris or London or New York? Agreed. Great urban planning?  Agreed. A cultural potpourri where Malay, Chinese, Indian, and everyone else live in harmony? Indeed, and special thanks to this diversity you can find the most delicious Southeast Asian and western delicacies in any food court or hawker center. SG is so ahead of other countries in the region (and in the world) that every human being owns an iPhone regardless of his or her income.

Best doctors? Entirely the contrary. That also depends on your definition of “best”.  I’ll skip my previous experiences and concentrate *solely* on today’s experience, part of my struggles of researching Lasik clinics and doctors in Singapore. Dr. Lee Sao Bing rejected me for Lasik, declaring that I wasn’t suitable for it due to the scars on my cornea. “I am a very conservative doctor,” he emphasized.

Dismayed and distrustful of his sole opinion, I wanted to seek a second opinion. On Saturday I attended a forum held by Dr. Lee Hung Ming and found him surprisingly funny and knowledgeable.

First impressions can always be misleading….

Today’s appointment at Parkway Eye Center turned out to be a very unpleasant experience. First I was informed by the staff that the $185 assessment would only be free (waived) after the surgery, which came as a huge shock to me because no one ever warned me of the details and conditions. I argued that 1) in the email 2) at the forum  – it was advertised as “free lasik assessment”, and that it was an extremely misleading message.

They said someone else would attend to me and that to see the doctor I’d still have to pay $185 for consultation. I expressed my discontent: I took half a day off just to come here and even rescheduled another doctor appointment [at LSC] to accommodate this one, just because a friend of mine strongly recommended me that doctor. He urged me, “Go see Dr. LHM. My parents got Lasik from him years ago and they still have perfect eyesight.”

After the marketing staff did eye screening for me, she said that instead of having the full lasik assessment, I could opt for just the doctor consultation, which would be $75. I had no choice so I agreed.

The famous doctor did explain things well, but I must sidetrack a bit first. He said, “Yes in your case there’s a risk. There’s 1% of chance that things might not go well with your right eye, and if that happens you can’t blame it on me.”

Huh?

He continued, “I already heard some commotion out there made by you.”

I was utterly shocked when he *blamed me* for causing commotion (seriously?) when his staffs were the one who employed DECEIVING, MISLEADING advertising message. LSC and Shinagawa clinics offered me free assessment without any hidden charges. yet this reputable eye center refused to even apologize.

Then after the session, at the reception counter,  I advised them to please change their PowerPoint content – instead of writing “Free Assessment” – they should LIST the conditions and INFORM the patient beforehand.

Yet the staffs were almost giggling at my serious request.

Going back to Dr. LHM’s consultation, basically the scars on my cornea are not in the center, so I am still suitable for Lasik. HOWEVER, for IntraLase on my right eye, there is a very rare 1% chance that laser might be blocked by the scar and if that occurs, I could have a flap melt (basically it means bad) and I could end up with irregular astigmatism. Or I could opt for the older method – Microkeratome blade – for 0% risk. Nevertheless, because my power is so high, I would end up with very thin cornea, which means I wouldn’t be able to have lasik enhancement again if my power ever came back, and I wouldn’t be able to wear contact lenses either way due the changes in the cornea shape.

He said there’s a 97-98% chance of me achieving 20/20 or 20/30. As for the 1% risk for my right eye, he said he’s handled many cases like this before and is very confident that it wouldn’t happen in most cases. And of course, due to my high power and my scar, I’m only suitable for the most expensive lasik (IntraLase Custom/Ace/Tissue-Saving) – $4000 + for both eyes.

I somewhat believed in his expertise but I hated what he said about me causing “commotion” in the clinic. Experience and expertise cannot compensate for the lack of integrity and honesty in medical practice. You’re not just treating a case. You should be treating a patient in the most sensitive, considerate manner from his or her point of view. As a doctor, you shouldn’t be accusing your prospect client blindly instead of investigating in the issue. If I were him, I’d sit down and reflect, Why did she react that way? Why did she feel cheated? The case is simple: because they were not being honest.

What they failed to grasp was that the consultation fee was not the problem. The problem was that they used unethical marketing schemes and ambiguous communications to lure clients. It didn’t matter if it costed $1 or $200 for consultation. What was crucial was the reason and the expectations that I was charged for it. Since I were  told explicitly in email and in person that attending the doctor’s forum would qualify me for free lasik assessment, I was only mentally ready for free lasik assessment. If I’d been told that consultation would not be free, I’d be mentally prepared to pay.

Nothing beats the feeling of being cheated.

I’ve lost a huge slice of confidence in that clinic. Regardless of his expertise or experience, I no longer feel safe in his hands, and I almost have a presentiment that I might really fall into the unlucky 1% risk category (and still not allowed to complain about the foreseen disaster if it ever occurs).

My lasik journey has only begun. I might not do it in Singapore if I can’t find a doctor with whom I’m comfortable.

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