Suspension over steroid prescription

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 11 January, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 11 January, 2007, 12:00am

NT doctor persisted with six-year treatment against patient's wishes, panel finds

A private doctor was suspended from practising for 10 months yesterday for improperly prescribing steroids to a woman for six years, which sent her to hospital twice with swollen limbs and a drugrelated disorder.

Aaron Lee Fook-kay, a general practitioner for 13 years who runs a solo practice in New Territories West, had pleaded no contest to two charges of professional misconduct.

He was also ordered to undergo supervised practice for at least 12 months after his name is restored to the general medical register.

The Medical Council found Dr Lee guilty of professional misconduct for prescribing steroids to Elizabeth Kay Sik-yan from 1999 to 2005 without informing her of the risk and side effects of the medication, and continuing to do so even after she told him the drugs should not be prescribed to her without her consent.

In one consultation, on March 15, 2005, Dr Lee prescribed 14 different medicines to Ms Kay, which included various cough suppressants, bronchodilators and antihistamines. Ms Kay had been seeing Dr Lee - who earned his medical degree from the University of Hong Kong in 1994 - for various ailments, including asthma and flu, since 1999.

According to the council, Ms Kay was first admitted to Tuen Mun Hospital in 2000 for mild swelling of a leg, during which doctors suspected long-term use of steroids and advised her to stop taking them.

'The patient made inquiries with the defendant, who told her he had not prescribed steroids to her,' said council chairman Felice Lieh Mak.

Ms Kay informed Dr Lee that she could have a significant reaction to the steroids and that it should not be prescribed to her again without her consent.

'The defendant assured her that he would not prescribe medicine containing steroids,' Professor Lieh Mak said.

In 2000, she was again admitted to Tuen Mun Hospital when blood tests showed her hormonal cortisol level was markedly suppressed. It was traced to long-term use of the medicine Beclomin, which contained steroids, Professor Lieh Mak said.

Diagnosed with treatment-induced Cushing's syndrome, Ms Kay tried to commit suicide, lost her job and went through marital difficulties as a result, the hearing was told.

Prescribing steroids without informing the patient is 'by itself professional misconduct', Professor Lieh Mak said. She said Dr Lee's action in promising not to prescribe steroids when the patient asked him but continuing to do so without telling her was 'an act of dishonesty', she said.

Dr Lee reached a 'substantial' out of court settlement with Ms Kay, who on December 13 last year withdrew her complaint. Defence counsel Alfred Fung Kwok-chor had urged the council to take into consideration Dr Lee's no-contest plea and the fact that the patient had withdrawn her complaint.