Singapore

Infected worker's death ruled a suicide

A 46-year-old construction worker, Mr Alagu Periyakarrupan, who was diagnosed with Covid-19 decided to kill himself on April 23 despite the fact that his doctor told him he would probably recover.

Ruling the death as suicide, State Coroner Kamala Ponnampalam on Friday (Sept 25) cited the hospital's review which found his death was neither "predictable (nor) preventable".

Mr Alagu, an Indian national, was warded at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital (KTPH) for Covid-19 on April 19. Five days later, he was found motionless without a pulse at an outdoor staircase landing on the third floor of the hospital.

Noting that Mr Alagu's attending consultant was Tamil-speaking and able to hold a conversation with him, the state coroner said: "While he (Mr Alagu) did express concern about his financial position and kids in India, he did not voice any suicidal thoughts."

She also noted that KTPH’s review found no lapses in clinical care for Mr Alagu, and she said that his death was “the deliberate act of suicide.”

The court heard that the Indian national made a call to his nephew Veerappan Meenakshi Sundaram while he was warded in KTPH, telling him that he would have to take care of his family as well as his own.

When Mr Veerappan tried to probe further, Mr Alagu assured him that everything was all right and that he would recover soon.

On Thursday, the court heard that Mr Alagu had no complications and was on track to be transferred to a community facility.

But, at about 5.30am on April 23, he made two video recordings on his phone from the toilet of his ward, saying that he wanted to end his life because he had Covid-19. The videos were played in court.

He is believed to have then used a metal hook to prise open one of the window panes by his bed, and leapt from the window.

An autopsy report found that he died from injuries caused by "a fall from height". He had multiple injuries, including a ruptured heart, bleeding into the chest cavity, fractured ribs and pelvis, and bleeding over the surface of his brain.

Dr Goh Kah Hong, head of the psychiatry department at KTPH and chairman of the hospital's committee tasked to review Mr Alagu's death, noted that many migrant workers who are Covid-19 patients have a "conceptual difficulty" in understanding why they are in hospital, even after their diagnosis was translated to them in their native languages.

Since the incident, KTPH has used silicone as an adhesive on all its windows to make it more difficult to prise open the catches securing the panes.

It has also taken added steps to ensure that migrant workers who are Covid-19 patients feel less isolated by ensuring they have access to phones and Wi-Fi connection.


Helplines

Migrant Workers' Centre (24-hour helpline): 6536-2692

Transient Workers Count Too: 6297-7564

Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics: 6341-5535

HealthServe: +65-3138-4443

Samaritans of Singapore: 1800-221-4444

Singapore Association for Mental Health: 1800-283-7019

COURT & CRIME