A 74-year-old elderly woman, Madam Tan Yaw Lan, died 3 weeks after suffering a heart attack while she was hospitalised at Tan Tock Seng Hospital, (TTSH) on 13 May 2018.
The deceased’s son, 47-year-old Chia Soo Kiang, is suing the hospital and three doctors for negligence and seeking $800,000, alleging that they had multiple breaches during their duty of care.
The three doctors involved in this care are namely Dr Dorai Raj D. Appadorai, Dr Lee Wei Sheng and Dr Ranjana Acharaya.
Madam Tan, who had health problems which included diabetes, heart and kidney disease, and hypertension, suffered a heart attack while taking a shower, where she was assisted by a nursing intern.
Her son, Mr Chia, filed a lawsuit in 2019, alleging that TTSH withheld pre-existing medications for Madam Tan’s health issues and her diabetes, failed to refer her to the appropriate specialists, as well as allowed a staff who was medically untrained to care for her.
The hearing for the lawsuit opened at the High Court yesterday (15 August), with a total of 30 witnesses being lined up to testify.
24 of the witnesses were for TTSH and the three doctors, while 3 witnesses were for Mr Chia.
Chia’s lawyer, Clarence Lun, said that “despite the deceased’s medical history known to the defendants, the defendants had acted in a callous manner to a high-risk and vulnerable person, even to the extent of permitting an untrained intern nurse to treat the deceased, which resulted in her collapse and delay in responding to the emergency.”
The defendants are being represented by Ms Mar Seow Hwei.
The deceased was admitted into TTSH on 20 April 2018, following a visit to the emergency department with complaints of a fever ad lethargy.
She was initially diagnosed as having widespread sepsis, a heart attack, diabetes, anaemia and a deteriorating kidney.
The treatment plan for her was to start antibiotics medication and stop her medications for heart problems such as furosemide and losartan, as well as aspirin.
She was then referred to the cardiovascular medicine department of the hospital by Dr Lee, and her usual premixed insulin was then replaced with a “sliding scale” insulin, with the dose varying based on the blood glucose level.
The referral was then cancelled by Dr Ranjana.
The defendants said that Madam Tan’s aspirin medication had to be temporarily stopped because there is a risk of bleeding, with the doctors highlighting her drop in haemoglobin level and sepsis.
They also said that hospitalised patients being placed o sliding scale insulin was common and usual.
They added that Madam Tan’s underlying cause for her heart attack was sepsis (the body’s life-threatening response to an infection) and that no specific treatment was required for her heart attack.
They also testified that the nursing intern, who was helping Madam Tan shower, had immediately called for help and a medical team attended to her and that there was no delay in the resuscitative efforts.
The defendants also argued that Dr Dorai Raj, who was on call on the night on 20 April, didn’t owe Madam tan a duty of care as he didn’t personally review her and was not consulted on her case.
The trial is set to continue today.