The death of former actress Eugina Lau Mei-kuen's newborn baby could have been avoided had the doctor handled the delivery differently, an obstetrics expert told a Medical Council hearing yesterday.
Lau's first son died a day after he was delivered by private obstetrician Dr Christine Choy Ming-yan at St Teresa's Hospital in 2005. Choy and paediatrician Dr Wan Kam-ming face charges of professional misconduct after a complaint by Lau and her husband, singer Peter Cheung Shung-tak.
Professor Terence Lao Tsz-hsi, a Chinese University obstetrics expert, said that had Choy not ruptured the amniotic membrane to induce birth, she may not have needed to use Syntocinon, a drug to speed up labour.
Lau was 37-weeks pregnant on February 18, and Lao saw no reason to rupture the membrane as mother and fetus were well.
"It's like riding on the back of a tiger, there is no coming down," he said of the decision to induce birth. He said Choy had not properly assessed Lau's condition before using the drug, which applies pressure to the womb and increases the risk of suffocation.
When asked what the difference would have been had Choy not carried out these procedures nor used a vacuum to assist in the delivery, a procedure thought to have led to bleeding on the scalp, Lao said: "The chance of this fetus being born half-dead and dying on day two could have been avoided."
The baby, Cheung Tin-lam, was unresponsive at birth and died a day later.
The couple had at an earlier hearing raised the question of whether Choy induced birth because she was planning a trip out of town.
Lau and Lam bought a package from Choy that entitled them to unlimited consultations and ultrasound scans. They considered her a friend at the time and made bookings whenever they had questions or simply wanted to look at the baby.
Choy's counsel Kumar Ramanathan asked Lao whether he would consider such an arrangement to be the act of a caring and accommodating doctor.
But Lao replied that, to him, the package seemed more like a gimmick to attract patients. He said medical literature showed that frequent ultrasound scans could pose a risk to the fetus.
The hearing, which continues for a fifth day on Sunday, is expected to last at least eight days. The council's temporary chairwoman Professor Felice Lieh Mak said that were it to last any longer it would be the longest the council had heard.