Delivery of actress' baby was smooth, says doctor in infant death inquiry

PUBLISHED : Monday, 31 March, 2014, 6:16am
UPDATED : Monday, 31 March, 2014, 6:16am

A doctor charged with professional misconduct over the death of former actress Eugina Lau Mei-kuen's newborn baby yesterday told the Medical Council that the delivery was smooth and the baby was not distressed at birth. But Dr Christine Choy Ming-yan was accused of lying to the council, and of having tampered with medical records.

The baby, Cheung Tin-lam, was born at St Teresa's Hospital, a private hospital in Kowloon, on February 19, 2005.

Choy said the newborn had a normal heartbeat and showed no signs of oxygen deprivation. She had used a vacuum extractor to pull the baby out, a technique she was experienced in. "I've done hundreds of vacuum extractions, it's almost like a reflex for me," she testified.

But the baby's condition later deteriorated and he required breathing support. He died on February 20. A prosecution witness had earlier said the baby was gasping after the delivery.

Asked why she called paediatrician Dr Wan Kam-ming to tend to the baby, Choy said she did so as the child was not crying vigorously. Wan has also been charged with professional misconduct.

Medical Council member Dr Cheung Tak-hong, head of obstetrics and gynaecology at the Prince of Wales Hospital, Sha Tin, asked Choy why she was worried after the delivery and why she woke Wan to go to the hospital. She said she was being cautious.

She defended her decision to induce labour on February 18 by rupturing Lau's amniotic membrane at her clinic in Central, saying she did so to lower the risk of umbilical cord prolapse, which could kill the infant.

But Cheung said the risk was low and the benefit of breaking the water was minimal.

Lau, 37 weeks pregnant at the time, earlier testified that she had not thought she was ready to give birth and did not give permission for the induction. Choy said yesterday that she had explained the decision to Lau in 15 seconds.

Contrary to the parents' evidence, Choy said she had offered the option of a caesarean section when Lau went into labour. Cheung questioned why that offer was not included in the medical records. The reasons that Choy said the parents had given for not taking that option were "professional sounding" and "not what I would expect from laymen", he said.

Prosecuting officer Mark Chan Hoi-cheung accused Choy of lying to the council, and of having tampered with medical records when preparing for the case. Choy said she had added supplementary notes but in an honest fashion.

Chan also said Choy had understated the baby's condition to the parents after his birth. "After birth, all you were concerned about was to protect yourself, not baby Cheung."

"There was no time in this entire episode that I put my interests first," Choy replied.

Asked why it seemed the hospital's midwives made so many errors in handling Lau's case, Choy said it was unfortunate.

The hearing continues today.