A Death in Hong Kong: an evolving essay and insight into medicine and the law in contemporary Hong Kong (part five)

Whilst the death of Zoey Leung was now the focus of a criminal investigation I found myself dealing with a false allegation that could put my career, and status as an expert witness, at risk. The Chief Executive of the Prince of Wales Hospital, Fung Hong, decided to appoint a hospital authority Investigation Panel (IP) to look at Wong’s complaint. I was asked to attend an interview but Bernard recommended preparing a formal statement and presenting that to the IP. We worked very hard and produced a comprehensive account of the background to the patient referral, the ‘incident’ itself and the follow up. In addition, we produced a damning indictment of Dr David Wong Sau-yan, detailing his history of dishonesty, deception, insubordination and defamation. This is the most appropriate response to a person who makes a wild accusation without any evidence or witnesses. I also thought that this was an opportunity to put my long-held concerns in regards to Dr Wong on formal record.

Bernard was very concerned that I, as a University employee, should not present myself to a Hospital Authority investigation without proper representation. He was concerned about possible Human Rights violations and potential breaches of due process by any ‘tribunal’ that was clearly neither trained in investigate skills, nor independent in composition.

I had other concerns. My application for extension of service. The key person in this matter is the Chairman of the Department. I did not have his support but I did have a big research grant coming in and there was an established charity to fund further projects. The consensus feedback from my peers was that the Dean of the Medical Faculty would ensure that the Chairman would make a political, rather than a personal, recommendation. However, “Under investigation for the physical assault of a subordinate”, would trump any ‘politics’.

I wanted to press on with the meeting with the IP. Bernard agreed, though with some reluctance. And then a really strange thing happened. Literally just days before I was due to see the panel and submit my statement, Chris Howse came barging in.

Of course Howse should not have interfered. Bernard had given a professional assurance that no one in HWB associated with the inquest of Zoey would be involved in my case (this refers to the partners from Reed Smith Richards Butler, Kan and Howse). The conflict of interest was just too great. It would be a clear breach, a serious breach, of professional standards. And it was.

And what was the last-minute advice from Chris Howse? He told us to remove any and all criticism of Wong Sau-yan from my statement. He said it would not reflect well on me and to trust him. He had experience of dealing with similar allegations made in the private sector. Howse can be very persuasive and I, and Bernard, with mutual misgivings exchanged in glances, followed his advice. Advice that in retrospect was bizarre, completely unprofessional, and absolutely wrong.

But why did he do it? Why then? What made him cross the line?

Was it to protect David Wong or was it to hurt me? Or both? What was the relationship between Howse and Wong Sau-yan at that time? Zoey had been unlawfully killed and the cumulative negligence of the celebrity cosmetic surgeon was so great that a charge of manslaughter would have been inevitable.

This would not have been too good for the fledgling law firm whose senior partner was a self-appointed expert in medico-legal matters. The Medical Protection Society would not be too happy to have to deal with the compensation for a death due to Medical Negligence. They would have to assess the cost of defending the case and the chances of being successful. A high-profile case with a celebrity surgeon would need a very expensive defence. Medico-legal practice in Hong Kong is not about Justice, it is about Money. But not all of the time, as we shall see.


Andrew Burd (Prof)

The Chinese University of Hong Kong.

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