Man in coma after clinic procedure; wife sues specialist

Man in coma after clinic procedure; wife sues specialist

SINGAPORE - A company director who underwent a colonoscopy at a clinic ended up in a coma and is now staying in a nursing home.

Mr Victor Heo's Hong Kong-based wife, Madam Carol Kwok, 50, is now suing, on his behalf, the specialist doctor who performed the procedure in 2008, alleging negligence.

She is seeking compensation for medical costs, pain and suffering, and her husband's loss of earnings, among other things. Mr Heo, 67, used to earn $290,000 a year just before the mishap.

Dr Cheng Jun, 57, who runs his own clinic at Mount Elizabeth Medical Centre, is denying the claims, pointing out that Mr Heo was properly managed and treated based on expected standards of care and competence.

A High Court pre-trial conference was held last Friday.

Dr Cheng, a consultant gastroenterologist and a past president of the Gastroenterological Society of Singapore, has 25 years of experience and has performed about 20,000 colonoscopy procedures.

The medical examination of the colon is carried out via the insertion of a fibre-optic camera on a flexible tube to check for cancer or the presence of polyps.

It was conducted at Dr Cheng's clinic at Mount Elizabeth Medical Centre on Nov14, 2008.

Mr Heo, an American citizen and Singapore permanent resident, was sedated for the procedure, which progressed uneventfully. But shortly after the colonoscope was withdrawn, he collapsed.

He was revived with emergency help from the hospital next door, but suffered brain damage due to a lack of oxygen to the brain.

He has never recovered, according to court papers filed.

His wife alleged in court documents that he was over-sedated, but Dr Cheng made clear that the patient was properly sedated.

He is expected to cite several well-established experts who have filed court papers to affirm that his management of Mr Heo was appropriate, and that the collapse was probably due to other medical conditions.

Another key issue expected to be settled in court is whether the patient was sufficiently advised to make an informed choice in relation to where the procedure should have been done.

Madam Kwok, represented by lawyer Niru Pillai, alleges that Dr Cheng failed to advise Mr Heo on the pros and cons of using the clinic rather than the hospital.

But Dr Cheng, defended by lawyer Edwin Tong, counters that Mr Heo was properly briefed and advised at a meeting in November 2008.

He was given the option to choose the clinic or hospital, as there were no special factors present in his case that required a hospital setting.

Mr Heo, an accountant by training and director of a private investment firm who used to commute between Singapore and Hong Kong, was moved to a nursing home in 2009. He remains comatose, with a tube fixed to his stomach for feeding.

The High Court has set aside three weeks next month for the case to be heard.

vijayan@sph.com.sg


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