MEDICAL Council chiefs have failed to reach an agreement on how to regulate 'Internet doctors', with members split over what should be regarded as advertising through tele-medicine. The council's ethics committee has found the issue too complicated and is worried that firm rules may fail to keep pace with evolving technology. The committee recently completed a review of doctors' professional code of conduct. The revised code - which includes a new section on withholding and withdrawing patient treatment and doctors' participation in medical groups - is expected to be issued in August. But the revised code will not include a section on tele-medicine, although it was originally planned. The ethics committee recommended that separate guidelines on tele-medicine should be issued instead of advising doctors on the proper ways of releasing information or treating patients over the Internet. Health care and medical Web Sites have become popular in Hong Kong. Many link to medical groups, which post health news, doctors' advice on diseases and also offer clinic services. The Medical Association has warned against consultations on the Internet. Council chairman Dr Lee Kin-hung said the council would monitor the issue. 'The principle on advertising and canvassing of patients is still valid,' he said. 'As many doctors want to know more, we think having a separate guideline is necessary.' Dr Lee warned that, for example, doctors providing professional advice on the Internet should not publicise their business contacts. 'If there are any complaints [against consultation on the Internet], we will deal with it,' he said. 'We will apply the same principle, we will then investigate if a doctor has [committed] any negligence or whether he has carried out his professional responsibilities.' Council member Dr Choi Kin said members also had very different views. 'If there is a doctor who provides information to a Web site, but it also carries advertisements on health products, can we say the doctor is endorsing the products?' Dr Choi said. 'It is one of the many questions yet to be answered.'