Doctors met last night to protest against a ruling by the Medical Council that examining women patients without a nurse being present could amount to professional misconduct. The Hong Kong Doctors' Union proposed conducting its first-ever survey to gauge the reaction of members to the ruling. About 2,000 doctors will be asked under what circumstances they might need a 'chaperone' and if this would present any difficulty in their daily practice. Last week the Medical Council found Dr Li Shui-lung guilty of professional misconduct for examining a pregnant 25-year-old in Pok Oi Hospital in January 1996 without a nurse being present. Dr Li, who was acquitted of criminal charges, was also found guilty of failing to record the examination. He was given a warning letter. The council's decision has been greeted with strong opposition within the profession. Doctors fear if the case is taken as a precedent, it will leave them exposed to unfounded charges of sexual misconduct. Some doctors believe it is too harsh to require them to have a nurse next to them during every physical examination. The Medical Association will ask the council for clarification. The president of the Doctors' Union, Dr Yeung Chiu-fat, said last night that some doctors could not afford to have a nurse present at all consultations. 'The situation is worse in public clinics when manpower is so tight. Nurses are always busy and sometimes patients are admitted in the middle of the night and there is nobody available to accompany the doctor. 'The decision is unfair. We always encourage doctors to have a chaperone to protect themselves. It may not be good practice to not have one, but it should not be taken as misconduct. If there is no trust between doctors and patients, it will be dangerous,' said Dr Yeung. He said doctors in Australia and Canada were not required to have chaperones. A Medical Council member also said the council decision was wrong. 'It is a difficult task to draw the line. If there is a problem for a male doctor to examine a woman without a chaperone, how about when examining a man or even a child? 'A doctor may also be accused of being a molester for touching a baby. And how about having a chest examination?' The Public Doctors' Association said if the council failed to clarify the judgment it would advise its members not to touch any patient without a chaperone. Its vice-president, Dr Leung Ka-lau, said: 'We don't want to comment on the council's decision, but as its verdict is so simple, we want more explanation.' A spokeswoman for the Patients' Rights Association, Lilian Lau Sau-han, said a chaperone should always be present during physical examinations.