Bar on risky pregnancies 'unethical'

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 10 May, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 10 May, 2011, 12:00am


A government proposal to turn away mainland women with high-risk pregnancies from Hong Kong would damage the professional image of doctors and pose ethical problems, senior obstetricians have warned.

The doctors are also concerned that it would lead to such women hiding medical problems from doctors.

'Such a policy would damage doctors' professional image. Doctors should not pick up only safe cases,' Hong Kong Obstetrics Concern Group spokesman Dr Cheung Tak-hong said. 'Doctors can advise high-risk mothers to give birth near home, but it is very different from turning them away under a hard rule. Rejecting high-risk patients would be an unethical practice.'

Last month, Secretary for Food and Health Dr York Chow Yat-ngok said Hong Kong would issue certificates for mainland women to deliver in the city only after Hong Kong obstetricians determined that their pregnancies were normal.

This is one of seven initiatives announced by the government to cap the number of mainlanders giving birth in the city. The government hopes screening out high-risk pregnancies will ease pressure on overstretched intensive care units for newborns at public hospitals.

The College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and the College of Paediatricians met last night to discuss possible screening guidelines.

But Cheung warned against rejection of high-risk women, such as those expecting twins, those with diabetes or hypertension, and those who had a tendency to miscarry.

The concern group comprises senior public obstetricians, including the department heads of five public hospitals.

Cheung said preliminary discussions focused on mainland women having ultrasound checks for abnormalities 20 weeks into their pregnancy, before a certificate for an obstetrics booking would be issued.

Cheung, head of obstetrics and gynaecology at Prince of Wales Hospital, said the government policy would increase the workloads of local medical staff.

'And if the mainland mothers realise Hong Kong has such screening, they will hide their medical problems from doctors,' he said.

Chan Hin-biu, head of the neonatal intensive care unit at United Christian Hospital, said he was open to any measure that could relieve the pressure on neonatal services. 'We have to think of the interests of the patients. If the mothers have medical problems, it will always be good for them to deliver near home instead of coming to Hong Kong,' he said.