My Take

Failure to reform Medical Council boils down to one thing: doctors’ self-interest

Professor Joseph Lau is only half right: not everyone’s a loser over failure to pass reform bill; incompetent medics are winners

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 26 July, 2016, 12:50am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 26 July, 2016, 12:50am

Professor Joseph Lau Wan-yee has the wrong post-mortem result for the failed government bill on reforming the Medical Council.

“It is now a situation with four losers: the government, the Medical Council, the public and the medical sector,” said the council chairman, who had supported the bill.

Not quite. The killing of the bill by an unholy alliance of pan-democrats and an establishment lawmaker for the medical sector in the legislature has been a triumph of vested interests for the Medical Association and within the medical profession.

It means preserving the old boys’ network within the council and the profession, shielding doctors from greater independent scrutiny and protecting the most incompetent and unprofessional among them.

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Yes, most of us lose out, but some people win. That means having to wait an average of almost five years merely to get a first hearing with the council for medical mishap or misconduct against a doctor. After that, it may drag on for years before a judgment is rendered.

The case of Peter Cheung Shung-tak and his wife Eugina Lau Mei-kuen has become a rallying cry for patient rights groups.

It took the couple nine years – having to give up their flat and spending a seven-digit sum on a civil claim, facing repeat rejections and jumping through hoops – before the council finally found the doctor guilty of four counts of professional misconduct in the death of their newborn.

Surely no one benefits but the doctor involved.

Distant dream: Hong Kong Medical Council chairman pessimistic over further reform

Professor Lau also believed the bill was killed because of doctors’ mistrust of the Leung Chun-ying government. For some doctors, that might have been the case. But tainting the bill with a conspiracy theory about Leung trying to take over the council was just a masterful propaganda coup by the bill’s opponents.

Lau is right, though, that it would be impossible for the current lame duck government to continue the fight to reform the council.

This may be a sorry state of affairs for everyone, but many doctors are more than happy to have the old boys continue to take care of the profession’s self-policing.

Former long-time council chairman Professor Felice Lieh Mak has it exactly right: Doctors opposed the bill “for self-interest, stemming from a mind to protect their own”.