Doctor who prescribed drug knowing it could harm foetus gets suspended sentence

Former senior public doctor given suspended punishment after admitting that blood pressure medicine threatened the health of unborn child

PUBLISHED : Monday, 03 March, 2014, 12:33pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 04 March, 2014, 3:59am

A former medical chief of a major public hospital was guilty of professional misconduct in his private practice for prescribing a drug to a pregnant woman that posed a risk to her unborn child, the Medical Council has ruled.

The council yesterday imposed a suspended sentence on Dr Liu Woon-tim. He will be removed from the doctors' register for two months if he commits another offence within a year.

Liu qualified as a doctor in 1973 and quickly rose to become medical superintendent, effectively chief executive, at the Prince of Wales Hospital in Sha Tin in 1984. He left the hospital in 1989 to set up a private practice in To Kwa Wan.

Speaking outside the hearing yesterday, he said he left the hospital job because he preferred treating patients to administrative work.

In May 2010, he prescribed Lisinopril to Carol Li Yung-man, who had high blood pressure. He knew she was 20 weeks pregnant and that the drug posed a risk to the fetus but prescribed it anyway. Neither mother nor baby were harmed.

"We accept this was an isolated incident and the defendant is unlikely to commit the same or similar professional misconduct in the future," the council's temporary chairman, Professor Felice Lieh Mak, wrote in the judgment yesterday.

Liu accepted the facts of the case and could not explain why he had prescribed the drug.

He apologised to the patient and council, and said he hoped to continue to practise.

Liu has been a doctor for 40 years and had never been in trouble with the watchdog before.

The US Food and Drug Administration advises that the use of Lisinopril should be stopped as soon as pregnancy is detected. The drug interferes with the user's hormones and increases the risk of major congenital malformations or even fetal death.

Li was only alerted to the drug's risks when she attended an antenatal clinic at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Yau Ma Tei a month later.

Liu's lawyer said his client was extremely sorry. He has been a conscientious doctor who wanted the best for his patients.

He cited a newspaper report in 2012 that Liu had left his consultation room to treat an old man whose wheelchair was too big to get through the door. The patient had been refused treatment at a nearby clinic for that reason.