Dentist guilty of professional misconduct over cancer patient

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 29 March, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 29 March, 2008, 12:00am

A dentist has been found guilty of professional misconduct for failing to refer a tongue cancer patient promptly to a specialist surgeon after he failed to fully extract one of her wisdom teeth. The Dental Council ordered that a warning letter be served on Chung Wai-chung and published in the gazette.

The council heard that Dr Chung should have referred Chan Sin-man, 52, to an oral surgeon immediately or as soon as possible after the failed extraction on July 31, 2003, because it would expose her to a higher risk of infection during radiotherapy scheduled to last from August 4 to mid-September that year. But Ms Chan did not see a specialist until November.

Ms Chan, diagnosed with tongue cancer, was referred to Dr Chung on July 31, 2003, for a dental check-up, necessary before radiotherapy.

Dr Chung halted an extraction of one of her teeth, leaving part of it behind, when she started bleeding profusely. In the disciplinary hearing on January 28 this year, Dr Chung testified he had immediately proposed Ms Chan see a specialist after the failure of the extraction but she refused.

But Justice Department legal officer Johnny Chan said yesterday it was not until October 24, 2003, that Dr Chung proposed the first referral.

He said Dr Chung suggested a referral at that point because he found Ms Chan's oral situation was worse than he had expected when she went for a check-up.

Ms Chan said in her written submission that Dr Chung had not explained to her on July 31, 2003, the risks of having radiotherapy while part of the tooth remained in her jaw.

Disciplinary hearing chairman Chan Cho-yee said that although Dr Chung testified that Ms Chan had refused his offer of referral, the refusal was not shown in his dental record for July 31, 2003.

Dr Chan said Dr Chung had not suggested a referral until October 24, at the earliest, when the radiotherapy had already been completed.

He also said the radiographs taken on July 31, 2003, and August 1, 2003, showed three-quarters of the tooth was left in Ms Chan's jaw, not the 'root fragment' that Dr Chung suggested.