Critics of the lenient punishment given to a doctor whose unnecessary surgery left a woman sterile were not qualified to comment, the Medical Council chairman said yesterday. Dr Lee Kin-hung said those who had complained were 'outsiders' who did not know the full picture. His comments came as criticism intensified over the council's decision to give Dr Albert To Chung-fung only a warning after he was found guilty on Monday of professional misconduct. Dr To's patient lost her unborn child and was made sterile after he sent her for surgery hours after her first consultation with him. A council tribunal said the treatment carried out by Dr To was inappropriate and unnecessary. Patients' rights groups said Dr To should have been given a heavier penalty. But Dr Lee, a gynaecologist in private practice, said Patients Rights Association spokesman Lilian Lau Sau-han and Hospital Authority public complaint committee member the Reverend Chu Yiu-ming were 'outsiders' who were 'not qualified' to make comments. 'They did not know the full picture. They are not qualified to criticise,' said Dr Lee, who was on the six-member panel which approved the sentence. The council's penalty was lighter than one passed on another doctor last month for writing an undated sick-leave certificate. Dr Yau Wing-him was issued with a public warning for that offence, unlike Dr To, whose warning letter will be kept private. Dr Lee countered: 'Issuing a false certificate is serious misconduct. It is about a doctor's integrity and honesty.' Referring to Dr To's case, he said: 'How can one talk about consequences to the patient when she has agreed to be sterilised? There were two lay members, two private doctors and two university professors on the panel. That means one-third of the members of the panel were not doctors, so how can one say we are protecting only doctors' interest?' Mr Chu said he was shocked by Dr Lee's comments. 'If he is the only one qualified to speak, he should have told the public how they come up with the sentence. The operation has ended a life and left permanent scars for the woman and her family. It is totally unacceptable to say it is just a small communication problem.' Dr Lee said on Monday the case only arose from a 'minor communication problem' between the two parties. Legislator and lawyer Albert Ho Chun-yan said he and other legal experts would challenge the council. 'We will collect the Medical Council's sentences over the past three years and send the report to overseas experts and similar groups to comment and we plan to organise an international conference on the issue,' he said. Mr Ho said council members had 'substandard' legal knowledge when deciding on complaints.