Mother of 6 sues anaesthetist

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This ex-lawyer and mother of 6 accuses an anaesthetist of negligence. She also claims that he had failed to inform her of the risks involved while using anaesthesia during the Caesarian birth of her last child.

An anaesthetist arrived late, and without speaking to her or assessing her, he puts her under anaesthesia.  He then flexed and tilted her neck as he inserted a breathing tube down her airway improperly.   Sounds like a horrific medical process?  Well, that is what 40-year-old mother of six, Mdm Joanne Tong Seok May is accusing her ex-anesthetist of doing.  Mdm Tong, a former lawyer, is hauling Dr Gordon Yau Hok Man to court for medical negligence and allegedly causing hurt to her neck in an anesthetic procedure during the Caesarian birth of her last child in 2006.

Mdm Tong believes; as a result of his actions, she has been suffering from severe pain in the neck and back, pins and needles in her hands and feet and chronic headaches.  She now suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder with a major depressive disorder.  The pain has also worsened over the past four and a half years.  She has to take at least 20 pills a day for all her ailments as well as attend physiotherapy sessions.

Mdm Tong is represented by Ms Melanie Ho and is seeking about $2.6 million in damages – $400,000 for expenses incurred, $1.2 million for future expenses and $1 million for loss of future income.

On the defense front, Dr Yau has denied all allegations and said in court documents that he had not flexed, extended and/or tilted Mdm Tong’s head while performing the procedure.  He is currently still in private practice at Mount Elizabeth Medical Centre.  He contended that it was the “usual and standard practice” for Mdm Tong’s gynaecologist, with whom he had been working with for some years, to advise patients accordingly. He argued further the tube was successfully inserted in one attempt without any difficulty.

His lawyer, Mr Lek Siang Pheng, noted Mdm Tong had also signed a consent form indicating that the nature, risks and alternatives of anaesthesia had been explained to her.  Mdm Tong’s account was that she was unaware the consent form was for procedures other than the Caesarian section and that she had not read it before signing.  Among the nine witnesses that Dr Yau will call include a private investigator, who conducted surveillance on Mdm Tong and found that she was able to engage in normal activities.

The hearing began on August 28th when Mr Lek grilled Mdm Tong as to whether her gynaecologist had already discussed with her about the anaesthesia procedures, thus making it unnecessary for his client to repeat the same.  Mdm Tong denied this, saying they only spoke generally about anaesthesia being necessary for Caesarian births, but did not delve into the type of anaesthesia.  She continued to say that she felt Dr Yau was the best person to explain and advise her about the risks because it was his area of expertise but he failed to do so.

The hearing is scheduled for 19 days and continues on Monday.

Sources:  ST, Channelnewsasia

Photo credit:  Nuria Ling

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