Benefits of cancer treatment not documented, Hong Kong court hears
Doctor facing trial over death of patient made the comment at press conference shortly before the woman died
A Hong Kong beauty group owner accused of selling an “unproven” cancer treatment to a healthy woman which resulted in her death in 2012 conceded at a press conference that its so-called advantages were undocumented.
When he was quizzed by reporters about how the treatment would benefit healthy people at a press conference five years ago, DR Group owner Dr Stephen Chow Hon-wing replied: “You have asked a very good question. I have no proof.”
The general practitioner was caught on camera admitting that he learned about certain advantages by word of mouth.
“[The treatment] got a good reputation overseas for boosting the spirit and reducing pain,” he said.
“But they are not documented. I heard about them from friends,” he told the press conference, the video of which was played in the High Court on Thursday.
Chow is standing trial over the death of Chan Yuen-lam, 46, on October 10, 2012. The woman died of septicaemia a week after she received induced killer cells (CIK) treatment at a DR Group centre in Causeway Bay on October 3.
The press conference took place on October 6 after Chan and three other women, including Chow’s sister, underwent the treatment at Chow’s beauty chain, which the court heard had more than 800 staff.
Chow, his employee Dr Mak Wan-ling and laboratory technician Chan Kwun-chung have each pleaded not guilty to one count of manslaughter by gross negligence over Chan’s death.
The prosecutors allege that the death was caused by the not only “unnecessary” but contaminated CIK procedure performed on the supposedly healthy Chan.
In the video played on Thursday, Chow insisted he was mostly an investor and rarely meddled in the group’s operations, including the hiring of doctors and the promotion of the treatment.
He also claimed he had been to Japan and the mainland to learn about the treatment adopted in the two places, and had also visited Singapore and the United States.
He said the treatment – which he conceded was theoretical – involved taking someone’s blood to enhance its white blood cells. The new cells, once reintroduced to an individual, would help spot early cancerous cells too small to be detected and get rid of them, he said.
But the court has so far heard that Chow went to a Guangzhou hospital only once before launching the treatment. Prosecutors also cited staff notices possibly signed off by Chow which encouraged staff to sell the treatment.
The prosecutors have been alleging that CIK treatment remained at an experimental stage.
In the video, Chow claimed that since his group used the treatment for wellness purposes – rather than to treat cancer – it would not require clinical trials.
“It’s up to the doctor to make an assessment,” he said.
When asked to what extent he would have to be responsible, he told reporters: “It’s better to leave it for the court to decide.”
The trial continues before Madam Justice Judianna Barnes Wai-ling on Friday.