My uphill battle in seeking justice from Hong Kong's Medical Council
When singer Peter Cheung Shung-tak and actress Eugina Lau Mei-kuen finally received some justice last week over the death, nine years ago, of their newborn son, one Hong Kong teacher could not help but wonder when her own justice might arrive.
Over the past three years, "Susan" has spent a five-digit amount pursuing a complaint against her private doctor, whom she accuses of refusing to give follow-up care after performing an HK$80,000 knee operation.
Susan, not her real name, says that she received no explanation over why she was apparently abandoned. She also says that the doctor has refused to hand over her full medical records, despite repeated requests.
Without that medical history, Susan has found it hard to get other doctors to treat her knee, which continues to give her sharp pain and causes her to walk with a limp.
She sought help from the Medical Council, but the regulatory body that licenses and disciplines doctors said that they were allowed to discontinue care. And it would not compel the doctor to hand over the medical records.
In July 2012, Susan pursued the only option she felt was available to her under the present system - she filed a complaint to the council against the doctor.
Since then, she has found herself in a similar situation to the one Lau and Cheung endured, spending a fortune on substantiating the complaint and facing a long wait for a hearing.
"Looking at Eugina Lau's case, it reminds me that I should not give up," Susan said.
"But I really feel very helpless standing against a doctor as a patient in Hong Kong.
"There is no guarantee of patients' rights."
Last November, the council dismissed her complaint as "frivolous" and "groundless". She then submitted more documents and asked for a review, the result of which is still pending.
"It is not easy for a layman to launch a complaint.
"Other than persistence, it requires a lot of time and money.
"I am sure many less fortunate complainants who do not have the resources and money would have given up," Susan said.
Patients' Rights Association spokesman Tim Pang Hung-cheong said that many patients faced an uphill battle in seeking justice from the medical watchdog.