Patient wins $250,000 in damages over botched operation

Patient wins $250,000 in damages over botched operation

A patient who successfully sued Gleneagles Hospital after its nurse helped a doctor cover up additional surgery he performed to cover up a botched hand operation, was on Thursday awarded $250,000 in damages.


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No medical exam, no claim: Court

A patient successfully sued Gleneagles Hospital, where a doctor had performed additional surgery on his hand without consent. But before damages can be assessed, the patient must allow the hospital to examine his claims of depression.

The High Court made the ruling this week in a test case here where it addressed the issue of whether a medical examination can be ordered against an unwilling party in a civil suit.

Assistant Registrar Sarah Shi, in her judgment grounds, said the request by the hospital was "entirely reasonable".

She noted the choice before the court was to order Mr Li Siu Lun, 54, to undergo a medical examination or stay the proceedings until such time he has submitted to such an exam.

A "stay" order was apt.

She ruled that a plaintiff who sues for damages based on his medical condition must give the defendant a "reasonable opportunity to have him medically examined". He loses the right to protest that the procedure will invade his privacy.

"If (Mr Li) chooses not to submit to a medical examination... he will be unable to pursue his claim any further."

Mr Li, a Hong Kong-based British national, had sought damages against Gleneagles last year, claiming it had conspired with Dr Looi Kok Poh to alter his consent form for additional surgery and other medical records in a bid to help Dr Looi cover up his negligence. Dr Looi, who runs a private practice, had used the hospital's facilities for the surgery.

Mr Li, a private investor, claimed aggravated damages for the loss of his rights to a proper set of medical records and losses incurred in having to sue others in addition to Dr Looi and Gleneagles.

To support his claim for aggravated damages, Mr Li said the actions of the hospital had caused him to suffer "grave mental anguish, distress and depression".

Judgment was entered against Gleneagles and Dr Looi last year for liability, and the issue now involves the quantum of damages Mr Li should get from each party. Gleneagles is the second defendant.

Gleneagles sought a court order for Mr Li's mental condition to be assessed by its experts to verify his claim. Its lawyers Audrey Chiang and June Hong argued that depression was an important element in Mr Li's claim and the hospital would be severely disadvantaged if it was unable to get its own psychiatric report.

Mr Li's lawyers Eugene Nai and Cannis Seng objected, saying the medical exam was not required to prepare for their defence and questioned if any Gleneagles-appointed examiner could be unbiased.

Assistant Registrar Shi further held that Mr Li's refusal to undergo a medical examination was not reasonable as he had not argued that such a test would cause him further psychiatric damage.

She noted that Mr Li's expert had already conducted a psychiatric exam on him and if Gleneagles' expert is prevented from conducting a similar examination, "there would be one law for the plaintiffs and another for the defendants".

She added that any claims that the Gleneagles appointee might be biased can be taken up at the subsequent hearing.

Mr Nai said his client will be appealing against the decision.

vijayan@sph.com.sg

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