Allergic to shellfish, she dies after eating prawns

This article is more than 12 months old

She knew she was allergic to prawns. But Ms Khoo Siew Hong, 60, insisted on eating the shellfish as she had consumed some a few days earlier without any sensitive reaction.

This proved to be fatal as she later died in hospital.

Delivering his findings yesterday following an inquiry into her death, State Coroner Marvin Bay said her death was a "truly unfortunate misadventure".

He said Ms Khoo, who was unemployed and moved around in a wheelchair, lived with her sister and two helpers - Ms Rosemarie Bastareche and Madam Ten Ah Boh - in a flat in Lorong 3 Geylang.

On March 8, Ms Khoo asked to eat some prawns that her helpers had prepared for laksa. They obliged and gave her two pieces.

About 2½ hours later, she complained of itchiness.

Ms Bastareche gave her an antihistamine tablet for an allergic reaction to prawns, which Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) had prescribed to Ms Khoo.

Coroner Bay said: "About five minutes later, Ms Bastareche noticed Ms Khoo's face started to develop a rash and swelling, and took a damp towel to wipe Ms Khoo's face. Ms Bastareche helped Ms Khoo to recline, but she noticed that the rash had increased in intensity.

"After 20 minutes, Ms Khoo complained of breathlessness and Ms Bastareche took medicated oil to apply on her nostrils to aid her breathing."

The helper quickly alerted Madam Ten and the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) when Ms Khoo went limp shortly after.

She was unconscious when they rushed her to TTSH. The hospital told Ms Khoo's sister that her prognosis was poor.

After the woman contacted their family members, a decision was made to take her off the ventilator.

A forensic pathologist later found that she died of anaphylaxis - a severe allergic reaction - compatible with food allergy.

An autopsy revealed that there was an accumulation of fluid in her larynx, which is consistent with an allergic reaction. Her lungs were also found to be congested.

Yesterday, Coroner Bay said that persons susceptible to shellfish allergies can take certain precautions.

He said: "The only absolute way to prevent shellfish allergy is to avoid all shellfish and all products that contain shellfish. "

Coroner's InquiryCOURT & CRIMEFood & Drink