China suspends psychiatrist who falsified research

October 20, 2013

A doctor who admitted to faking clinical research data and obtaining patients' personal data without consent had his licence suspended for a month yesterday.

The Medical Council found Dr Sunny Wong Wing-kin guilty of professional misconduct.

Between 2009 and 2010, Wong, then working at Kowloon Hospital, conducted a research project on the incidence rate of psychiatric problems in Chinese HIV patients as part of an examination required to become a psychiatrist. "I treated it as homework so I didn't take it seriously," he said in mitigation, admitting all six charges and apologising.

The council's temporary chairman professor Felice Lieh Mak said: "He was prepared to disregard all the relevant rules of professional ethics to achieve his personal purpose of obtaining a specialist qualification."

She said Wong could have misled other doctors with his scientifically invalid research, adding that it was the first time the council handled a case of data fabrication in clinical research.

Wong was a trainee with the College of Psychiatrists when he conducted the research. An investigation by the college found he had not obtained the ethics committee's approval for his research and falsely stated in his dissertation that it had been approved by the Hospital Authority.

Without permission, he used the authority's computer system to identify male patients at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital who had a history of having sex with men.

He approached about 80 patients and asked them questions as if he were performing a clinical consultation, without explaining that he was conducting research they had the right not to take part in. The doctors in charge of those patients did not know about his interviews.

Nurses noticed Wong talking to the patients and reported the incident. The college informed the council and terminated Wong's membership. He withdrew from the examination.

A Queen Elizabeth Hospital spokeswoman said the hospital did not know how Wong entered the wards, but confirmed he had worked in the hospital before.

Wong also admitted to fabricating data in compiling his dissertation and changing it until he obtained satisfactory graphs.

"[Wong's] conduct involves fundamental issues of honesty and professional ethics. These are important requirements for all doctors," said Lieh Mak.

 Source: Lo Wei wei, "Doctor suspended for fabricating clinical research,"
South China Morning Post, October 15, 2013.


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