A former public hospital doctor convicted in 2009 of obtaining details of 2,000 patients before switching to private practice, has been censured by regulators for his crime and his failure to report a court's guilty verdict.
A Medical Council hearing yesterday found that Paddy Chan Tak-ming, a former senior oncologist at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Yau Ma Tei, had committed professional misconduct over his conviction for misconduct in a public office and his failure to report it to the council.
The council issued a warning letter and ordered that Chan's name be removed from the medical register for a month, subject to a one-year suspension, meaning the penalty will only be imposed if he breaks the rules again in the next 12 months.
Chan was fined HK$50,000 by Kowloon City Court for the offences, which took place in 2007. The conviction was upheld by the Court of Appeal and Court of Final Appeal.
"There is no doubt that patients' data had been obtained by the defendant for his private purpose to advertise to those patients the private practice which he was about to establish upon leaving public service," the council's temporary chairwoman, Professor Felice Lieh Mak, said.
Chan's legal representative, Chris Howse, said that his client's failure to report the conviction was a result of incorrect legal advice.
Howse said Chan's solicitors told him he need not report his conviction because the case was under appeal. He read from a statement written by Chan's then legal adviser, Oonagh Toner.
"I realised the advice given to Dr Chan previously was erroneous... the mistake was the firm's and not Dr Chan's," Toner wrote.
While Lieh Mak accepted that Toner had taken the blame for the legal advice, she said the relevant section in the professional conduct manual clearly stated that all convictions were to be reported within 28 days, even if they were being appealed.
"[One] should not blindly follow legal advice," she said, adding that Chan had a responsibility to read the manual.
Chan became a doctor in 1989, and qualified as a clinical oncologist in 1998. He left Queen Elizabeth Hospital in January 2007.
The court heard in 2009 that Chan told a clerk to access the hospital's computer system and print out the names and addresses of patients. He later sent letters to the patients regarding his private practice
Chan had a clean record before this offence, and was well regarded professionally by both patients and peers, Howse said.
Mitigation letters presented to the council were sent from patients and patients' relatives, private and public doctors, as well as several oncologists.