Health and wellness

‘Jailing of Hong Kong doctor a timely warning for clinics and beauty centres to prioritise consumer safety’

The doctor sentenced to 12 years in prison for manslaughter could be further censured by the city’s medical watchdog, says the president of the Medical Association

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 19 December, 2017, 12:50pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 19 December, 2017, 10:59pm

A doctor jailed for 12 years for manslaughter in Hong Kong’s worst beauty treatment blunder would also face a disciplinary inquiry by the medical watchdog after his release, the leader of the city’s largest doctors’ group warned on Tuesday.

Dr Gabriel Choi Kin, president of the Hong Kong Medical Association, was referring to Dr Stephen Chow Heung-wing, who was convicted over the death of a woman after a beauty clinic he owned administered experimental cancer therapy on her, which it sold as a health boost. Laboratory technician Chan Kwun-chung was jailed for 10 years for the same conviction.

Three other women also fell seriously ill after receiving the same cytokine-induced killer (CIK) cell therapy at the Hong Kong Mesotherapy Centre, owned by Chow’s DR Group, in Causeway Bay.

On Tuesday, Choi said in a radio programme that if doctors performed treatments “lacking evidence-supported outcomes”, they should be prepared for severe sentences and additional punishment.

“Chow would have to face a hearing at the Medical Council after serving his prison sentence, if he is a registered doctor. This a serious message to doctors,” Choi said, referring to the watchdog, which licenses and disciplines medical practitioners in the city.

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According to the council, Chow’s name will remain in the general register for doctors for now.

Choi, a former chairman of the council’s preliminary investigation committee, said the hearing would consider censuring Chow, including removing his name from the register.

“Doctors who perform treatments without clear evidence supporting their efficacy are violating the code [of professional conduct],” Choi said, adding that he believed Chow’s prison sentence was appropriate.

Choi said the city currently has more than 500 doctors involved in aesthetic medicine and the case of DR Group could be a timely warning for them, a point echoed by Nelson Ip Sai-hung from the city’s Federation of Beauty Industry.

Chow’s sentence should remind beauty centres to make consumer safety their top priority, Ip said on the same radio programme.

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But Ip criticised the government’s latest proposal to regulate the use of medical devices and private health-care facilities, as they would not plug the loopholes exposed by DR Group’s treatment blunder, which was caused by a lack of protocols and bacterial tests when blood was extracted from patients before being processed and reintroduced with an enhancement of white blood cells.

“It seems there hasn’t been clear regulation on cell therapy and laboratory [procedures],” Ip said.

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He suggested the government provide training and install an accreditation system for beauticians who used devices in beauty procedures, so that consumers could tell who was qualified to operate those devices.

“A person should be allowed to operate a device based on their ability, instead of his or her job title,” Ip said.