Gadget didn't ease his pain

He is the first person in Singapore to be implanted with a gadget aimed at easing chronic pain.

In June 2005, Mr Kassim Abdullah, now 44, had the SynchroMed device put inside his body at Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH).

But he claimed the device failed and has gone on to sue the company that sells it as well as his doctor and the hospital.

The New Paper had reported in August 2005 that two discs in Mr Kassim's spinal column had started to degenerate before their time, causing discomfort.

The SynchroMed is a round pump which holds a microchip, allowing doctors to programme the amount of medication to be delivered via remote control.

The device is implanted in the subcutaneous tissue of the abdomen. Attached to it is a thin rubber tube to the painful area.

The device administers minute amounts of morphine throughout the day.

At that time, the gadget had given Mr Kassim, a father of four boys, "almost immediate relief" and a "new lease of life".

But in 2010, he sued Medtronic International (Singapore Branch), TTSH and Dr Bernard Lee Mun Kam, the hospital's director of Chronic and Interventional Pain Management Service.

The device is still inside Mr Kassim, who told TNP last Thursday that he used to run a company in Indonesia.

He said he hasn't been working since 2005. The writ of summons filed on April 28, 2010, stated that Mr Kassim is claiming damages, interests and costs totalling $46,571 "and continuing".

Some of the claims arose from medical fees, loss of earnings and transport costs.

Mr Kassim's lawyer then was Mr Lau Teik Soon.

To be assessed are amounts for "loss of earning capacity/loss of future earning" and "future medical expenses/medication."

According to the writ, Mr Kassim is still on follow-up and his losses are continuing.

It also stated that he suffered six "withdrawal episodes" by Sept 19, 2009. In one case, on July 14, 2009, he "suffered near-death sensations, horrific back pains, anxiety and disorientation".

"The infusion system failed in that there was over-infusion of medication."

The writ claimed that on or around June 14, 2007, Mr Kassim discovered that his medical condition and withdrawal episodes were due to the "negligence" of Medtronic International (Singapore Branch), Dr Lee and TTSH.

Medtronic International (Singapore Branch) denies that it had been negligent and that the pump "is or was" defective and if it were, the company denies "that any such defect caused the alleged medical condition and/or any alleged loss".

The firm also said it was not involved in the decision to implant the pump in Mr Kassim's body.

Meanwhile, Dr Lee denies that any of the alleged withdrawal episodes experienced by Mr Kassim were due to his negligence.

The doctor said that he had exercised due care and followed all proper protocols and procedures in his medical management of Mr Kassim.

TTSH said in its defence that there was no negligence on its part. It added that Dr Lee and its other doctors had acted and responded appropriately with regard to the implantation and refilling of the pump.

An amendment to the writ was re-issued in March last year.

Mr Kassim's lawyer this time round was Ms Rajvant Kaur. But she stopped representing him in April that year.

On May 30 last year, yet another lawyer, Dr Anamah Tan, proposed a second amendment to the writ.

The case is still pending.

This article was first published in The New Paper.

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