Doctor 'qualified to perform treatment'

PUBLISHED : Monday, 22 January, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 22 January, 2007, 12:00am

Lam Kui-chun, a doctor and former legislator charged with professional misconduct over a procedure carried out in 2001, was reasonably qualified to provide the treatment that preceded a patient's death, two defence witnesses told a Medical Council hearing yesterday.

Dr Lam is alleged to have been inadequately trained when he supervised radio frequency ablation, or RFA, on Lo Tai - who suffered from liver cancer - between June and November 2001.

'At that time, there was no formal training available [in RFA treatment],' said Ronnie Poon Tung-ping, professor of surgery at the University of Hong Kong. 'Lam's skills were reasonable compared with other Hong Kong operators.'

Ho Chia-sing, a Canadian specialist in RFA, said Dr Lam had not seemed unreasonable in opting for the treatment.

'From my experience, this was not excessive,' he said. 'If I were to deal with this patient, this [RFA treatment] would probably be what I would end up doing as well.'

According to charges being considered by the Medical Council, Dr Lam failed to advise his 68-year-old patient of his lack of experience with RFA, or the risks involved.

Lo died in Queen Mary Hospital 15 days after receiving a second round of RFA treatment, overseen by Dr Lam at Hong Kong's Central Hospital in November 2001.

Dr Lam earlier said he had performed RFA only three times before overseeing Lo's second procedure. Lo's family earlier said Dr Lam was the one to recommend RFA but did not perform the first round himself.

The witnesses said they found it acceptable that Dr Lam did not advise the patient of his lack of RFA experience. Professor Poon said he would have done the same.

But Medical Council member Joseph Lau Wan-yee disagreed, saying: 'For practices newly introduced to Hong Kong ... you need to tell the patient that it is a new procedure.'

RFA is used to heat and destroy tumours by subjecting them to radio waves.

While effective in reducing tumour size, it can also be dangerous, depending on the proximity of organs.

The hearing will continue next Sunday.