Doctor was wrongly struck off, hearing told

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 24 October, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 24 October, 2007, 12:00am

It was inappropriate for the Medical Council to find a doctor guilty of performing a radio frequency treatment without adequate training when the council had not defined what the proper training was, the Court of Appeal heard yesterday.

The court was hearing an appeal by Lam Kui-chun, a hepatologist of 20 years' standing and a former legislator, who was found guilty by the council in February of performing radio frequency ablation, or RFA treatment, without adequate training and inducing his patient to believe that he had the necessary experience for the procedure.

Adrian Huggins SC, representing Dr Lam, told a panel of three judges that this was not a case of negligence. Instead, Dr Lam had been found guilty of being inadequately trained in radio-wave therapy.

But as a matter of law, the council had not identified what was the adequate training Dr Lam should have received.

On February 3 this year Dr Lam was struck off for six months by the council, but the sentence was suspended for two years. He had been allowed to continue practising during that time, but not to perform RFA until he had shown that he had received proper training.

The suspended sentence stemmed from a six-month disciplinary panel hearing which heard that Dr Lam had failed to properly supervise an RFA treatment because of his lack of experience on a liver cancer patient, Lo Tai, 68, between June and November 2001. Lo died in Queen Mary Hospital 15 days after receiving the second round of treatment at Hong Kong Central Hospital.

Mr Huggins said RFA was a new treatment and at an experimental stage in 2001. A doctor's expert testimony given earlier in the hearing said there was no structural training available in RFA treatment at that time.

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

Mr Huggins said Dr Lam had performed three RFA treatments prior to the November incident, including one on Lo in June 2001.

He queried why Dr Lam had only been said to have had inadequate training for the November incident and not for the earlier one.

Concerning the second charge on inducing the patient to believe that Dr Lam had the experience to perform the treatment, Mr Huggins said the doctor honestly believed he had the expertise.

The hearing continues today.