Man accuses SGH, doctors of botching colon treatment

SINGAPORE - A technician is suing the Singapore General Hospital (SGH) and two doctors for alleged negligence during a colonoscopy that later led to a partial removal of his colon.

Mr Frederick Sze Kum Fay, 58, claimed in his High Court suit that the loss affected his diet, curbed his work prospects and affected his overall health.

SGH and the two doctors, Dr Damien Tan and Dr Rajneesh Kumar, are contesting the claims in court papers filed.

A pre-trial conference was held in the High Court yesterday and a further hearing will be held in two weeks' time.

At issue is whether the partial removal of the colon was due to complications from the colonoscopy or whether it was necessary to treat a chronically diseased colon.

Dr Tan had advised Mr Sze to undergo the colonoscopy, to help in the diagnosis of chronic pain and ailments above the upper left leg area.

The medical staff had given him the appropriate fluids to prepare for the colonoscopy at SGH where he was warded in July 2009. But when he underwent the procedure the following day, the presence of some solid faeces was noted, which suggested poor bowel preparation. Mr Sze is arguing that the procedure should not have gone ahead because of the faeces, but it did.

At mid-day, he complained of a bloated stomach and abdominal pain and had an intermittent fever, according to court documents filed.

The next day, he underwent a chest X-ray and an emergency surgical abdominal incision known as a laparotomy.

It showed some complications, such as a thickened descending colon, characterised by the presence of an abnormal amount of fluid. A partial removal of his colon was done to arrest the situation.

Mr Sze, through his lawyers, Mr S. Palaniappan and Ms S. Sujatha, is seeking damages from all three parties for pain and suffering as well as the consequences of having to stick permanently to a restricted diet and being forced to take on a smaller role at work.

The hospital, defended by lawyer Kuah Boon Theng, and the two doctors, represented by lawyers Tin Keng Seng and Kang Yixian, have filed separate defence papers.

They said appropriate measures were taken to prepare Mr Sze for the procedure. The presence of a small amount of solid stool did not impair the operation and it was easily washed out.

Tissue examination showed he had a chronically diseased colon, including ulcers, attributable to many factors.

This meant the partial removal of the colon was necessary and it was not linked to the colonoscopy.

Mr Sze had agreed to the colonoscopy and had been properly counselled on the risks involved. It was for Mr Sze to prove they had been negligent or had failed in their duty of care towards him, said the defence papers.

High Court claims start at $250,000 and the case is expected to turn on the evidence produced.

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