Doctor punished for giving wrong abortion advice
A doctor who advised a woman to have an abortion without making sure that her fetus was dead was ruled guilty of professional misconduct by the Medical Council yesterday.
The council ordered that Dr Wong Wai-chung's name be struck from the general register for three months but suspended the order for 12 months.
The son of complainant Ms Kau Chui-fan, who would not have been born if the abortion had been carried out, is now three years old and healthy, the council heard.
On April 30, 2006, Kau, who was six weeks pregnant, visited Wong, a specialist obstetrician, at St Teresa's Hospital.
After undergoing two ultrasound examinations, Wong told Kau that her fetus had no heartbeat and that the fetal sac had collapsed.
He told Kau that she should go through dilatation and curettage, a form of surgical abortion, and that he had time to do that in the afternoon that day.
Kau told the council yesterday that Wong had told her: 'There is no need to find another doctor to confirm. Even if they do another examination, the diagnosis will be the same.'
She said Wong gave her the impression that abortion was urgent and must be done as soon as possible.
'I was told that if I did not do it, the dead fetus might cause an inflammation,' she told the council.
But Kau and her husband had doubts and called their friend, an intern doctor, who told them that there was no urgent need for an abortion.
The couple then asked Wong to write them a referral letter to Queen Elizabeth Hospital, where the fetus was later found to be still alive. Kau later gave birth to her son in December, 2006. The baby was healthy.
Expert witness Dr Charles Mok Ka-ming, the obstetrics and gynaecology chief of service for the Hospital Authority's Kowloon East area, said Kau's fetus did not constitute a miscarriage.
In order to declare a fetus dead, the gestational sac must be larger than 2 centimetres, but Kau's was only 0.99 centimetres, he said.
Wong should have performed another ultrasound examination for Kau after two weeks to make the final diagnosis, he added. Even if the fetus were dead, Mok said abortion was not the only option.
More than 70 per cent of women could pass the dead fetus out of their bodies without any external intervention. Or they could take oral drugs, he said. Doctors should carefully brief their patients about the three options before allowing them to make any choice, he said.
'Guidelines [on the definition of miscarriage] are available over the internet. If a doctor cares to look them up, they can be easily found,' he told the council, adding it was also included in specialist training.
Wong did not testify before the council yesterday and accepted the facts of the case through his lawyer.
In mitigation, Wong's lawyer said the doctor was sorry for what had happened and agreed that he should have been more conservative.
After the incident, he had enrolled in a continuing medical education course on obstetric and gynaecological ultrasound, the lawyer said.
Council chairwoman Professor Felice Lieh Mak said Wong's mistake was serious, but 'gave the defendant credit for his honest admission of the charge at the earliest opportunity. This reflects his remorse and insight into the mistake cited in the charge'.