Death of Peter Cheung and Eugina Lau's newborn: doctor's testimony questioned

Medical Council hears that evidence given by doctor facing misconduct charge after death of celebrity couple's baby doesn't fit with records

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 19 January, 2014, 5:14am
UPDATED : Sunday, 19 January, 2014, 5:14am

The doctor facing a charge of professional misconduct over the death of a newborn baby was yesterday accused of giving a witness statement to the Medical Council that was at odds with medical records and a video of the birth filmed by the father, singer Peter Cheung Shung-tak.

Dr Terence Lao, an obstetrics specialist and Chinese University professor, said obstetrician Dr Christine Choy Ming-yan also failed to respond properly to the seriousness of the baby's condition. Cheung Tin-lam died in Queen Elizabeth Hospital, a day after being born at St Teresa's Hospital in Kowloon City in 2005.

Lao pointed out that Choy could be seen in the video of the delivery reaching far into the vagina to extract the baby, which meant the baby was higher up and the cervix less dilated than she had stated.

Choy had said that the dilation of the cervix was three centimetres when she checked it, but nurses' records taken hours later showed a smaller dilation - the conflict was impossible as cervix dilation is irreversible, said Lao.

"The baby practically had no response despite various forms of stimulation. He was in a very poor state," Lao said.

"But instead of drying [him] up and vigorously resuscitating the baby, the baby was just placed on the mother's abdomen. This is not doing the best to help the baby."

Lao said the state of the baby stemmed from an amniotomy Choy carried out in her clinic on the mother-to-be, former actress Eugina Lau Mei-kuen.

The amniotomy - when the amniotic membrane is artificially ruptured to induce labour - was carried out a month before the baby was due and was uncalled for, Lao indicated.

"The clinic is not set up for very sterile and invasive procedures ... I think it was a very unwise undertaking," he said.

He noted that due to the fact many Hong Kong clinics were in busy commercial districts, traffic congestion could jeopardise a patient if her waters broke and she had to be rushed to hospital.

Amniotomies are done in hospitals for those reasons, he said. "And in our practice, if we decide to rupture the membrane for whatever reason, we will not ask [the patient] to walk around again. The patient will be sent to the labour ward on a stretcher."

Standing up or moving around would cause the amniotic fluid to gush out - as Lau's did after her visit to Choy. That could increase the risk of cord prolapse or hypoxia, which could kill the infant, said Lao.

The hearing has heard that Choy also failed to accompany Lau to the hospital, opting to meet her eight hours later, after attending a dinner and a party.

The hearing continues today.