Heart surgeon in clear after ban on ads lifted

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 23 July, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 23 July, 2008, 12:00am

Misconduct charge dismissed

The Medical Council has dismissed a misconduct charge against a heart surgeon accused of promoting his services in a magazine interview five years ago.

The dismissal came after the prosecution told the council it would not proceed with the case against Anthony Yim Ping-chuen upon reviewing the evidence after the Court of Appeal's ruling in January that some provisions of the ban on advertising by doctors were unconstitutional.

Dr Yim - a professor of surgery at Chinese University and the doctor of late Canto-pop songwriter James Wong Jim - was accused of professional misconduct over an interview he gave for an article on minimally invasive surgery, published by Next Magazine in November 2003.

The university's website says Dr Yim edited Minimal Access Cardiothoracic Surgery, widely acknowledged as the standard textbook in the field.

The magazine article outlined Dr Yim's professional experience and published pictures of him and his patients.

Delivering the judgment yesterday, council chairwoman Felice Lieh Mak said it accepted the prosecutor's position.

She said the council had refrained from making any finding on the facts of the case because of the prosecution's decision, but the dismissal 'should not be taken as a precedent'.

'First, we have not made any finding of fact, and each case must be judged according to its own facts. Second, we must not be taken to have condoned the kind of conduct as revealed in this case.'

She said the council had noted Dr Yim's expression of regret for having given the series of interviews.

He was advised to be cautious in future and to ensure full compliance with the code, Professor Lieh Mak said.

The hearing, which started on October 12, 2005, lasted for nearly three years. The council had heard that Dr Yim had agreed to give three interviews arranged by Next Magazine reporter Dorothy Chan, who had sought his advice for an educational article about his speciality.

The council also heard that Dr Yim had admitted in a letter that he had not taken the precaution of insisting on reading the draft before it was published and he wanted to apologise for the mistake.

The hearing was halted in June 2006 when the defence counsel sought an adjournment pending the outcome of a judicial review initiated by Hong Kong Sanatorium and Hospital's deputy medical superintendent, Kwong Kwok-hay, who claimed the ban on advertising amounted to a breach of the right to freedom of expression.

The council decided against reinstating the blanket ban on doctors' advertising in newspapers and magazines last January after deciding not to appeal against the Court of Appeal's ruling.

A new code was then endorsed in April allowing doctors, for the first time, to advertise in newspapers, magazines, periodicals and journals, but with several conditions attached to the code.