SINGAPORE - A prominent Malaysian businessman underwent major surgery here for suspected cancer but later found out that he was not suffering from the ailment.
He is now suing National Cancer Centre Singapore (NCC) and a senior consultant for damages.
Kuala Lumpur-based Datuk Seri Hii Chii Kok, 54, claimed they had failed to provide proper advice, did not consider the results of various other tests and failed to get his informed consent.
Both defendants deny the claims and made it clear in court documents filed that they never told him he had cancer of the pancreas. They pointed out that there were multiple specialist opinions that showed that the cancer could not be ruled out in his case and surgery was recommended.
Mr Hii is the managing director of KL's public-listed SEGi University Group and executive chairman of private investment vehicle HCK Capital Group.
In June 2010, after check-ups in Malaysia, he was referred to NCC where he was advised to undergo a scan to ascertain "hot spots" or cancerous lesions.
The test showed some hot spots in the pancreas. He was advised to undergo the Whipple's Procedure - a surgery to resect, or remove, portions of the pancreas, duodenum and part of the stomach.
After the August 2010 surgery, the resected pancreas was found to be not cancerous. He was discharged about 10 days later.
Mr Hii complained that other tests by NCC, which included a full blood count and urine test, all yielded normal results but NCC did not advise him about these results or their significance.
He returned to NCC in September 2010 for a review and was told he was recovering well. But about two weeks later in KL, he vomited blood and became unwell. This led to two major operations in KL. Mr Hii now suffers the effects of all the abdominal procedures he underwent. He needs to be administered insulin, is on a strict diet and is unable to lead an active lifestyle.
Through lawyer S. Palaniappan, he alleges both parties were negligent and had breached their duty of care towards him, which led to pain and suffering as well as loss of amenities.
Professor London Lucien Ooi, in defence documents filed, pointed out the NCC's Neuroendocrine Tumour Board had concluded Mr Hii had a slow growing grade tumour and recommended resecting surgery for the pancreas.
He pointed out that Mr Hii could have opted for a repeat scan six months later, but that risked allowing the tumour, if present, to spread if he waited that long. Defence papers filed by his lawyer Edwin Tong said Mr Hii had been advised on this.
Mr Hii had consented to the surgery and the results of the other tests were not relevant to the diagnosis of the tumours.
Prof Ooi added that the complications Mr Hii suffered could have been caused by a secondary infection that could not have been detected at the time of the review.
They also could not have been caused by, or reasonably expected from, his post-operation recovery in August 2010 when he had been discharged well.
Prof Ooi added they were more likely to be caused by a secondary infection that occurred when he returned to KL after the out-patient review on Sept 3, 2010.
Lawyer Kuah Boon Theng, in 14-page defence papers filed for NCC, said the advice and options presented to Mr Hii were "reasonable and justified and made in the best interests of the plaintiff".
Prof Ooi said yesterday he has asked his lawyers to "robustly" refute the allegations.
A High Court pre-trial conference is due next month.
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