Warning for doctor who removed salivary gland instead of tumour

Reprimand for doctor who missed tumour during operation fails to satisfy patient, who was left with medical problem

PUBLISHED : Monday, 03 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 03 December, 2012, 6:24am

A surgeon with 33 years of clinical experience who mistakenly removed a patient's salivary gland instead of a tumour escaped with a reprimand yesterday.

The patient - who now has problems producing saliva and was severely distressed after the blunder more than four years ago - was not happy with the Medical Council's decision.

After the council announced its ruling on Dr Hung Cheung-kin last night, patient Sin Yuet-wan said: "Justice has come, even if it has come late. But I am not very satisfied with it, because Hung didn't do what he should have done."

Sin filed a complaint with the Medical Council in December 2009, after earlier filing a civil claim with the court against Hung.

After a day's hearing, the council ruled that Hung had removed a patient's salivary gland but failed to take out a tumour.

The private surgeon was found guilty of professional misconduct for failing to differentiate the gland from the tumour.

But Hung was acquitted of two other charges in the same case involving his alleged failure to arrange a follow-up MRI scan after surgery.

Sin, 65, consulted Hung in September 2008 about a lump in the right side of her neck that disturbed her breathing when she slept on her right side. Hung did an MRI scan, which showed a mass next to the pharynx. He performed surgery a month later to remove it, but instead removed the inflamed salivary gland next to the tumour.

The council heard earlier that it was the first time Hung had operated on the pharyngeal area and that he could not find another mass in the area besides the abnormally large gland.

The council's temporary chairman, Dr Tse Hung-hing, ruled that given the deep location of the lesion, "it was a difficult operation, which should be performed by doctors who specialise in head-and-neck surgery".

But Tse also said the council believed that it was an isolated incident, that Hung had learned "a hard lesson" and that it was unlikely he would commit a similar mistake again.

Sin felt persistent neck pain and had difficulty swallowing food after Hung's surgery, and consulted another doctor who found and removed the tumour in May 2009.

Tim Pang Hung-cheong, a patient-rights advocate for the Society for Community Organisation, said the ruling was reasonable but he hoped that Hung would approach the patient soon to discuss compensation.

Last month the council struck Dr Christopher Tong Yung-man off the register of private doctors for secretly photographing six women patients and inappropriately touching them.

The penalty against Tong was one of the harshest handed down by the Medical Council. It found Tong, 33, guilty of 11 counts of failing to meet the professional standard for medical practitioners. He was acquitted on one count of the same charge.