'Wrong surgery left pregnant woman sterile'

Jo Bowman

A pregnant woman was wrongly given surgery that made her lose her baby and left her sterile, the Medical Council heard yesterday.

The woman, named only as Mrs Yiu, cried as she described how gynaecologist Dr Albert To Chung-fung told her she needed an urgent operation when she visited his clinic in Mongkok on February 17, 1997.

Mrs Yiu, then 39, was about six weeks pregnant with what would have been her first child by her second husband.

But a hysterectomy - involving the removal of her uterus, right ovary and right fallopian tube - was performed within hours of seeing Dr To.

She told the council that during a 10-minute consultation, Dr To said surgery to remove fibroids, or a tumour on her uterus, had to be done immediately.

He did not offer her the option of waiting until the baby was born and advised her to have her entire uterus removed to prevent repeat infections, Mrs Yiu said.

'I asked him what would happen to the baby. He said the tumour was so big and I was bleeding, it might not be good for the baby to be born.

'I accepted his advice not to keep the baby . . . I felt there was no choice.

'But I have suffered both mentally and physically.' Under cross-examination by defence counsel Thong Keng-yee, it was put to Mrs Yiu that she requested an abortion before an ultrasound scan confirmed she was even pregnant.

She rejected that as 'lies', along with suggestions that she asked Dr To to sterilise her because she did not want more children, and that the operation was done that day at her insistence out of fear she had cancer.

Mrs Yiu left the doctor's room in tears and went under Dr To's knife that night, in Union Hospital.

Dr William So Wai-ki, consultant obstetrician at Queen Mary Hospital, said Dr To's course of action was wrong.

He said even if Mrs Yiu had asked for an abortion and sterilisation, and if Dr To suspected cancer, the operation should have been delayed to let her think it over.

'I would say that this [the surgery] is one option of management rather than the [only] choice,' Dr So said.

'Most people would feel this is a little bit radical for the purpose. When you do a hysterectomy during pregnancy, it would have added risk to the woman.' Pathologist Dr Gary M. K. Tse testified that Mrs Yiu's uterus and her foetus appeared normal and that the tumour was separate from the uterus.

Mrs Yiu has two daughters, aged seven and nine at the time of the incident, by her ex-husband.

Dr To, who has a private practice in Nathan Road, Mongkok, denies giving Mrs Yiu an inappropriate or unnecessary operation.

The council adjourned the hearing to a date yet to be set.