TWO conflicting medical views were put forward in the Coroner's Court yesterday on the cause of death of a patient who took Chinese herbs. The contrasting evidence was heard in the case of Choi Mei-to, 54, when cardiologist Dr Tai Yau-ting disagreed with a forensic pathologist's conclusion that the cause of death was adverse effects to phenytoin. Phenytoin is an anti-convulsion drug used for epilepsy or heart rhythm disorders, the court was told. The court heard the drug was administered to Choi over a four-hour period on October 1 last year. He was admitted to Pok Oi Hospital, Yuen Long, at about 1 pm, about two hours after he took herbal medicine prescribed by a Chinese herbalist. Dr Khin Khin Sein, who carried out the autopsy, was unable to attend court yesterday as she was unwell, but colleague Dr Wong Hon-man gave evidence on her behalf. Dr Wong said he was testifying on the cause of death based on Dr Khin's findings. Dr Tai, a lecturer in Hong Kong University's Department of Medicine, contended that Choi's death was caused by aconite plant poisoning. The finding was based on various factors, including the clinical state of the patient and knowledge of aconite poisoning. He said there were three items on the herb prescription sheet which could contain aconite - Radix Aconiti Lateralis Preparata, Radix Aconiti Preparata and Radix Aconiti Kusnezoffii Preparata. Dr Tai agreed with coroner's officer Evelyn Pau that it was possible the patient could not see properly after taking the herb. Dr Tai maintained his view, although Government Chemist Dr Wong Tze-tat failed to find aconitin (a toxic component in aconite) in the patient's bodily fluids. Dr Wong, the chemist, found no toxic substance in the herbs and herbal residues in question but found phenytoin in samples of Choi's stomach content, liver and blood. Although the phenytoin level was 1.5 times the recommended level, Dr Tai said the level was not lethal. He said it was difficult to confirm the presence of aconites and measure them. He quoted one case of herb-induced aconite poisoning in March 1991 in which staff at the Chinese Medicinal Material Research Centre confirmed and measured the presence of aconites in a herb sample while its presence could not be confirmed by the Government Chemist. The court heard that Choi had chest pains and visited Chinese herbalist Lee Tai-wah in Yuen Long on October 1, where he bought some herbs. At home, his wife Yeung Wan-ching, 57, boiled a packet of the medicine. Half an hour after he took the medicine, he started vomiting and convulsing. He went to hospital in the afternoonand died at 9.15 pm. Ms Yeung said her husband had been unable to see or move his limbs. When asked about this, Mr Lee said: ''I am quite surprised. I don't believe that happened.'' He said he had never come across a case like this in his 30 years' experience. Mr Lee said the herbal medicine which he had prescribed for Choi was a normal, average dose. Solicitor John Rose appeared for the Hospital Authority. The hearing before Coroner Rodney Venning and a jury continues today.