Singapore

Family of woman in vegetative state sues NUH, neurosurgeon

Housewife is in vegetative state after surgery to remove brain tumour

The family of a woman who is in a permanent vegetative state following surgery to remove a brain tumour has sued the National University Hospital (NUH) and its most senior neurosurgeon for at least $2.5 million in damages.

The lawsuit, brought on behalf of Madam Goh Guan Sin, 68, by one of her daughters, alleges Dr Yeo Tseng Tsai, who is head of NUH's neurosurgery division, and the hospital were negligent in treating and caring for her after her operation.

Yesterday, in his opening statement in the High Court trial, Mr Abraham Vergis, who is acting for Madam Goh, said: "This entire case is about the callous and cavalier attitude demonstrated by Dr Yeo, the team of doctors and NUH."

In May 2014, Madam Goh, a housewife, was diagnosed with a brain tumour and was advised by Dr Ho Kee Hang, a visiting consultant at NUH, to remove the tumour.

Her surgery was scheduled for June but Mr Vergis said it was on the day of the surgery that the family found out that Dr Yeo, who was seeing her for the first time, would be operating on her.

DETERIORATED

After an uneventful operation, her condition deteriorated and a CT scan showed a massive blood clot.

Dr Yeo and the two neurosurgeons who were in the team concluded that there was a bleed in the brainstem.

They decided not to remove the blood clot. Instead, they inserted a shunt to drain fluid that had accumulated in the brain.

Madam Goh has been hospitalised at NUH since. Her family blames Dr Yeo and the hospital for allegedly causing her to suffer irreversible brain damage.

Mr Vergis said the plaintiff will be calling experts to testify that Dr Yeo's conclusion that there was a brainstem bleed was a misdiagnosis.

Dr Yeo's lawyer, Mr Lek Siang Pheng, listing the timings at which Madam Goh's vital signs were taken, argued that she was adequately monitored.

He told the court that on May 22, 2014, Madam Goh's case was presented at the division's weekly discussion, and the consensus was that it was not necessary to drain the fluid in her brain before the tumour is removed.

It was Dr Ho, who was undergoing cataract surgery three days before Madam Goh's operation, who asked Dr Yeo to perform the surgery, said Mr Lek.

Mr Lek said an appointment was made for Madam Goh to see Dr Yeo on May 27 but she did not turn up.

TEAM-BASED SYSTEM

Senior Counsel Kuah Boon Theng, representing NUH, said that public hospitals operate on a team-based system, in which advice and care may be given by various doctors.

On the complaint that Dr Yeo was seeing Madam Goh for the first time, she said the only other option was to cancel or reschedule the procedure.

The trial continues.

MEDICAL & HEALTH