Paralysed ex-national athlete cries despite winning medical negligence suit

Paralysed ex-national athlete cries despite winning medical negligence suit
Not a happy ending: Norazleen breaking down in tears outside the courtroom despite being awarded almost RM640,000 (S$235,777).

GEORGE TOWN - Norazleen Mohammed Mustaffa is richer by almost RM640,000 (S$235,777) but she is not jumping with joy. She simply can't.

The former national junior athlete is partially paralysed from the waist down after a failed spinal surgery 10 years ago.

She could only cry her heart out yesterday after the High Court ruled in her favour in a medical negligence suit against Universiti Malaya Medical Centre (UMMC) and orthopaedic specialist Dr Omar Md Isa, who performed the surgery on her.

Norazleen, 26, said that despite having the money, she could not go back to sports and lead a normal life like others.

"I have to accept all this. What else can I do? I am a bit disappointed. My legs are no longer normal," she said.

Tears rolled down her face when her mother Zainab Hashim, 52, said Norazleen had been suffering from urinary incontinence.

"She used to be a good runner but now, she even has difficulty performing prayers. I dread her future. We can look after her for now. But what will happen when her father and I are no longer around?" Zainab asked.

Judicial Commissioner Datuk Azmi Ariffin awarded Norazleen RM510,000 in general damages for the pain, suffering and embarrassment she had to go through, with interest at 8% per year from the date the writ was filed in 2008 to its full settlement.

He also awarded another RM129,818.75 in special damages, with interest at 4% per year from the date Norazleen underwent the surgery on Aug 30, 2005 to its full settlement. The sum is to pay for her diapers, wheelchair, medical bills and walking stick.

She said in her statement of claim filed in 2008 that she had congenital scoliosis (curved spine) and underwent corrective surgery on Aug 30, 2005, when she was 16.

She claimed that her spinal cord was injured with a medical instrument used negligently by Dr Omar, and she underwent a second surgery without the knowledge or consent of her family the same day.

Norazleen claimed that she became a paraplegic and suffered from pain, trauma, urinary and bowel incontinence, and difficulty in ordinary movements which had a permanent effect on her and affected her prospects of a good job and marriage.

On Nov 9, 2012, a High Court here dismissed her suit with costs but the Court of Appeal allowed her appeal on July 21 last year and found Dr Omar to be professionally negligent and UMMC vicariously liable.

The Court of Appeal ordered the case to be sent back to Penang for assessment of damages. Norazleen was represented by counsel Dr N. Ahilan while Dr Omar and UMMC were represented by N. Sharmini.

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