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

How does anyone decide when to walk away and when to stand and fight? Personal safety? Principles? The cost, not only in monetary terms but also in emotional anguish? What about pride, or in the Chinese culture, ‘Face’?

The Hong Kong Hospital Authority procedures and protocols indicate a timeliness in responding to any appeal. This did not happen in my case, and despite repeated enquiry to the Human Resources department I heard nothing. Month after month passed and finally I received a letter: the Hospital Appeal Committee concluded that there was no evidence of an assault but the “harmonious working atmosphere” mandated by the Hospital Authority Code of Conduct had been breached. As I was the senior person it was my fault. I had broken the Code but in view of my “retirement” no action was proposed.

It was absolute nonsense and I asked for clarification. None was forthcoming and the Chairman of the Appeal panel resigned from the Hospital Governing Board shortly thereafter.

If I read a story based on the facts of this reality I would have dismissed it as unrealistic, unconvincing, improbable. But that is the nature of corruption. It is an evil force, which permeates through institutions and professions like a cancer.

Until one has the personal experience of being collateral damage it is too easy to dismiss it as unfortunate, one of those things. For me the collateral damage had profound personal and professional effects and, without pulling any punches, the mental anguish was so severe it almost destroyed my will to live. Can I not let this all rest now? The simple answer is no. It is not a matter of revenge, of retribution. Zoey was unlawfully killed. A mother lost her daughter, taken away because of the gross failure of duty of care of a ‘professional’ person. Justice was not served by the legal chicanery of a dishonest senior partner of a Hong Kong law firm, aided and abetted by a ruthless and unethical medical indemnity company.

I am only too familiar with the details of this case as I was involved. But it makes me wonder how many more grieving parents, how many more wounded and disfigured patients, are deprived of justice and recompense because of a fundamentally flawed system. Hong Kong is not exceptional in this matter and I do sincerely believe that the adversarial system to address medical catastrophes does little to address justice. In addition, it hinders rather than helps the medical community from learning from mistakes and enhancing patient safety.

I have detailed the manner of the death of this young girl and the attempts to cover up the liability by the false and misleading evidence provided by medical professionals. I have detailed how the strategy to pervert the course of justice involved false allegations and the completely unprofessional interference of a senior lawyer. Ultimately the Medical Protection Society can have no defence for not informing me of the inescapable conflict of interest that arises when they are supposedly funding my defence against the allegations of one of their representatives.

Should I walk away? Would you?

What are the options? Whilst I do have experience of the chicanery of the law I have no expertise in this matter. But there are those who do have such expertise and their services do not come cheaply. In Hong Kong there is a degree of self-serving legislation that protects powerful lobby groups. Whilst I decry the abuse of the law and the principles of justice by the frivolous and malicious machinations of the ‘no win, no fee’ legal vultures, there are occasions when such an approach can make the law and justice more accessible for those who are otherwise denied due process. In Hong Kong, the ‘no win, no fee’ concept is regarded with disdain and is not allowed. Things are different in the UK and this is where the ultimate decisions were made regarding the strategy of the lawyers defending the unlawful killing of Zoey Leung. In addition, it was the MPS in London who orchestrated and endorsed my professional destruction.

I shall take a break now from this blog posting and enjoy a few precious days with my children in Hong Kong. In the New Year, I return to the UK with my son to begin a new life. The story is not yet concluded.

Andrew Burd (Prof)

The Chinese University of Hong Kong.

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